Professors are People, Too

“Student Perspective” by Sung Soon Gaval


There’s more to college than just getting an education. You have a chance to learn from some of the most experienced individuals in your field: your professors.

Yet often enough, students don’t go further to connect with them outside of the classroom. Students may not feel the need to connect or that it’s even an option really available to them.

You’re more than just a student.

You’re still a brother or sister, a daughter or son, a friend, a coworker, and so much more. The different roles you hold are not segregated from the holistic, dynamic person that you are. When a crisis comes up in one area of our lives, the impact has a ripple effect (or waves of impact) in other areas.

When academics are affected, what do you do?


As students, we are very familiar with the expectations, hard numbers, and deadlines of school. The midterm is on Wednesday the 16th. If I miss 3 three unexcused classes, I fail the class. If my grade is an 89, I get a “B.” My SAT score is 1000. This paper is worth 15% of my final grade. Numbers are very hard to deny.

Luis* (his actual name was changed) had always been an excellent student. He enjoyed learning, would complete every assignment on-time, and be engaged in class discussions. However, the semester before graduating, he was challenged with unforeseen circumstances. He started to skip class and miss assignments. Whenever his family checked up on him, he would lie, saying that he was doing fine. After a few weeks, he realized that he couldn’t go on like this.

He had resolved to meet each of his professors in person. His personal situation was too important and raw to be expressed in an email. “Before meeting with my professors, I dropped all expectations of what they ‘owed’ me and I decided to be honest, sincere, and speak from my heart.” Luis believed his professors had every right to fail him, but he also felt he still needed to communicate with them about what was going on.

Professors see you. 

They can see the effort and work you put in. They can see when you’re trying. Luis could see that professors are more than just grade-giving machines. They have their own lives, their own families, and even their own crises they’re dealing with. They are human beings, too.

Although Luis was prepared for the worst, all he found was compassion and understanding from his professors. Luis was given an extension and almost a year later, was able to successfully complete his courses, changing the ‘incomplete’ to an ‘A.’

Communication makes a difference.

While this may not happen in every situation, communication makes a difference. When we engage our professors on a human level, that’s when the real-life education sticks. If you learn nothing else in class, learn how to have real conversations and to ask for help when you need it. College is a time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s a time to discover ourselves. When we are open-minded and act courageously, we can surprise ourselves with the people and opportunities we find.