40 Be Careful—They Are Sensitive Beings

A photo of Catherine Ross
Figure 40.1: Catherine Ross

Catherine Ross

Professors have many students each semester. We get busy; we get careless. Students usually have only four or five professors each term. They want you to notice and like them. What you say, or don’t say, or telegraph with a look can loom much larger in their lives than you may expect.

They want you to notice and like them.

And then there is this thing called stereotype vulnerability. Apparently for some students, the normal stress of learning new things can trigger reminders of negative stereotypes, such as, “Women aren’t as good at math as men” or “Those who study the humanities are wasting their time.” Students can begin to feel judged (or to negatively judge themselves) even when their professor has said or done nothing that is in any way judgmental. Once a student starts to think a professor is unsympathetic to his identity group, in most cases he will shut down, often silently, giving the professor no indication of what has happened. It is mighty hard to rescue such a situation. So be careful. Students are sensitive beings.

A photo of UT Austin campus with overlayed text reading, "Never just read your syllabus on the first day. Teach something!"
Figure 40.2: UT Austin
A photo of Diana Dominguez
Figure 40.3: Diana Dominguez

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