The Many Layers of Being a Professor

Sorry for being away for so long, my classes have become more demanding, not giving me too much free time. In previous posts, I have already written about my sessions on post-university jobs, where I basically counsel students on possible careers after getting a degree in political science, discuss internship options, and provide advice about which courses would best fit the interests of the given student. These sessions are relaxed and quite fun.

However, something happened the other day after one such session that made me a bit stressed.

I noticed that during the session, one of my students seemed very absent-minded. This particular student is one of my best students, always participating in class with interesting comments, she has an inquisitive mind and approaches her studies in a very critical way – something that is crucial for political science students.

At this session, however, it seemed like she wasn’t paying attention at all and could barely finish the assignments I have given them. So after the session, I asked her if everything was okay, and she broke down – she started crying uncontrollably. At first, I couldn’t even understand what she was saying. I somehow assumed that it was connected to the studies, after all, I am well-aware of the high stress and anxiety levels that students often experience due to constant pressures to achieve. So I invited her to my office, made some tea to calm her down and then we resumed the conversation.

The poor girl told me that she was afraid she may have to take a break from her studies because she was finding it hard to make ends meet. The bills were too high. On top of it all, her water heater had stopped working and she didn’t have the money to fix it or get a new one. She was showering at her friend’s place for weeks now. As a professor of political science, I am no miracle worker and I can’t say that my salary is extremely high. So I thought of what I can do to help her. After all, this was one of my best students and I wanted her to finish her studies on time. After realizing that fixing the water heater wasn’t really an option, I decided to give her a gift: a new water heater. I thought it would be a good investment that can help her by lowering the bills a bit. Needless to say, she was overjoyed. In the meantime, she has managed to find a part-time job that doesn’t interfere with her studies and has decided not to take a break.

If you are a professor who is close with their students, then you may face a situation where some of your students open up about some personal issue. Most of the time, we are unable to solve all the problems in our students’ lives. However, I think that being a professor goes beyond teaching about political science, it is also about showing empathy and kindness to young students. And let’s not forget that a small act of kindness can go a long way. Some day, I am sure this student will pay it forward.