NaBloPoMo – Day 26 – Being Seen
In the past week, I’ve received two very kind emails from past students. I couldn’t believe how much those emails made me smile. I wonder if they know how much their simple email means to me? They were emails from students from different programs that I taught in different capacities, but something similar in each the emails really stood out for me – one said “thank you for seeing me” and one said “thank you for believing in me”. And my initial reaction to both was “That was no big deal.” I feel like listening to students, giving them opportunities to do things and then support to do those things, is the very least that I can do as a teacher. I feel like in the midst of a pandemic saying “I know life is extra hard right now, and I know you all have more and different and changing responsibilities right now, so if you need extra time for an assignment, that’s OK with me. An assignment is just an assignment, and if you have bigger priorities right now, that’s OK” is really an easy thing I can do. But when I thought about it, I realized that what that’s telling me is that even little acts can have a big impact. Even something that’s not a big deal to me can show a student (or a friend or a colleague or whoever) that someone sees them in their full humanity and that makes a difference. Especially now, when we are all behind our screens and it’s so much harder to connect, being seen matters.
I don’t blog about this to toot my own horn. I know from my course evaluations that at least one student every semester thinks I’m the worst professor who ever professed, so that helps keep my ego in check. But I’m blogging it to remind myself that little acts matter, sometimes a lot. A small act of compassion can really make a difference for someone. So can a small act of unkindness or thoughtlessness, so that’s an important thing to remember too.
Today I was at an event on Zoom. There were like 100 participants and every so often we’d be put into random break out rooms. At one point, a colleague of mine who I haven’t seen in a while ended up in the same breakout room as me. We private chatted “hi” at each other and when I looked up at my screen/camera after typing that, he also looked up at his screen/camera and we both smiled at each other and it totally felt like we were in the same room! You know when you see someone you know at an event and then you smile a smile of recognition? It was like that. Again, it was a small thing, but it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling of connection.
Man, I miss seeing people (as my sister’s friend puts it) in their human form.