I've always believed that education was one of the most important aspects to human success. I’m sure that many of you believe this to be true, and have based your career on expanding minds and cultivating knowledge. You have terminal degrees or at the very least graduate credentials that empower you as experts in your field, and you’ve worked hard to earn those degrees and various professional accomplishments. You know the information to teach, you’re continually researching to keep up with the latest in your field, and balancing the demands of life. One area that can become neglected, unintentionally I’m sure, is the area of student service.
I’m not comparing student service to customer service. I do believe that some principals of customer service are applicable to the Higher Education field, but that the terminology and general tenants of customer service become murky when entering the classroom. I’m choosing to define student service as the ability to convey knowledge, assess fairly, and provide timely communication in a positive/caring manner. There are several ways that we as educators can slip when providing this service, and not all areas of the definition are affected. We could cite the increasing class sizes, the dependence on technology to teach and communicate with students, the apathy of student dispositions, and I’m sure you can add your own rationale or reasoning as well. We are busier, classes are getting larger, not every class is going to be the class you enjoy interacting with, and our use of technology (especially in courses taught online) will continue to grow. Knowing these universal truths and accepting them doesn’t mean that we should admit defeat or embrace lower standards when it comes to providing exceptional student service.
Think back to your favorite teacher or professor. What made that person so special to you? Perhaps it was the creative approach to explaining subject material. Maybe it was that you felt a special connection or bond with the person, you knew that he/she cared. Or was it that you felt challenged, forced to think critically and to solve your own problems? Whatever the reason, I’m sure at the core of that experience was the feeling/knowledge that your teacher or professor was invested in your success. It’s a choice that we as educators make, and I’m sure a shared goal to measure our success in the success of our students. I’m not encouraging you to hold your students hands, to spoon feed your lessons, or to be less rigorous or lower your expectations of student performance. I’m asking that you consciously make an effort to be present during your courses, thoughtful when planning lessons and assessments, and human when dealing with students that are experiencing difficulty in or out of the classroom. I urge you to be the reason someone smiles today.