As mentioned yesterday, I meet individually with each of my students to discuss their future plans. What has surprised me is how many of them are shocked and thoroughly grateful that a faculty member would take the time to do that and really listen, care and discuss them, their lives, concerns, hopes, and dreams.
Many say that in their entire undergraduate experience, I am the only one to reach out to them like this. This really begs us to consider why we are in the university. Many of us have somewhere buried in the detritus of our minds the dream of the collegial university—faculty in scholarly fellowship with each other, grooming the next generations, molding and shaping them into pillars of knowledge to support the lamp of truth as they glide across the stage into the unknown of their futures.
Obviously the dream is just that, a dream. But must it be so far removed from the reality of our choices and practice that our students only get lectures and grades from us? It is a simple thing I do, which does take a lot of time over a couple of weeks, but that is all it costs me—a couple of weeks, yet it touches 144 people deeply.
Many Christian faculty struggle with how to reach out to their students, and how to identify Christians among them and share the bond of faith with them. This is so simple a way. If you look for it, they will drop hints about their faith, hoping for someone to pick them up and add to them.
It doesn’t get much easier or better than sitting in your office and discovering your students got the inspiration for their careers from a missions trip or a dentist at their church who took them under their wing. All of a sudden, you can freely express to them the true depth of your motivations for your life and how your faith directs you through life’s mazes. Then they open up about their hopes, fears and struggles with school and career. It’s instant discipleship, and you help empower them to reach other students because they know they have a safe place to go for direction and encouragement.
There’s a tired cliché: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Students of all persuasions can hardly help but put more effort into a course where their instructor has invested in them personally. Such is the effectiveness of a little one on one attention. Try it sometime and see if it doesn’t begin to transform your teaching, courses, students, scores and evaluations.