When I was studying to be a nurse I sometimes thought that teachers either did not care or did not understand. It was not until I was out of college for a few years that I realized they all cared. They cared so deeply that they were willing to come back semester after semester knowing that the new group of students would have similar complaints to the last group. The complaints are frequently about not being able to find the exact answer in the textbook, having to read too much, having too much work, or not finding the presentations exciting though I’m quite unsure how any of us ever thought a professor was going to make the Kreb’s Cycle exciting.

Looking back, I’m fairly certain that there were times when I was ready to give up that the person that cared most about my success was my teacher.  Some care because they see in you what you cannot see in yourself. Others care because they know if they can only get you over this hump you will be fine. Then there are those that care because if you fail they consider it their failure. Whatever the reason, looking back I never had a teacher that did not care about my success.

Caring does not mean that a professor will turn a blind eye to cheating, or pass you when you fail or stop pushing you just because you cry. As faculty members, we are not always good at letting a student know how much we care about them as individuals and as future nurses. As teachers and students, we can do more to understand each other.

HINT: Crying doesn’t work on other women. We all know what the tears mean. You are mad as hell and can’t say out loud what you are thinking so those words stream down your face.

Teaching feels like a gift from heaven. I cherish the opportunity to share my life and knowledge with others and am forever grateful when they share theirs with me. Each day I have wonderful opportunities to interact with future nurses and seasoned professionals. Sometimes I remember the rules I set for myself and other times I fail. Most days it is a mix of success and failure, but there is never a day I do not care.

Here are a few of my ground rules. I hope one day to master them.

1. Take the time to listen with your heart wide open.

Sometimes we are in a hurry and do not feel we have the time to sit and listen to the same story we have heard every semester. We too easily forget that the story is not new to us, but it is new to this impressionable young person that desperately wants to be a nurse. When a student asks to talk to us we should make the time and we should always encourage students to ask. Will it be the end of the world if we are late to a faculty meeting or another curriculum revision workgroup?

2. It is not necessary to offer advice

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people – because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn – and I will listen to you.

–Author Unknown

3. It is never necessary to criticize another person to help the one in front of you

Anyone that has taught for any period of time has heard a student tell a horror story of a bad lecture, unclear assignment, or poor classroom management. It should never be the case that one teacher says something bad about another teacher to a student. It is much better to try and get the student to speak directly to the teacher. If that does not work then it is better to go yourself. You will build trust and respect. You might even help avoid a bigger issue down the road.

4. Teaching well must be a priority.

The purpose of the university is primarily creating prepared minds. Our research and service help enhance the education, but teaching is is why most universities exist. Just as strong teaching can enhance one’s research abilities, research provides fresh ideas for the classroom. All faculty must learn to balance the priorities, but students should never be shortchanged because of one’s research or service. Students must remain the center of the university.

5. Southern hospitality helps create a positive environment.

Teachers and students are both human beings. When they are upset or stressed they need to feel welcome in your office. That is often as easy as a cup of coffee, a cookie, or a candy jar. Keep your door open and keep the coffee, cookies, and candy flowing.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thes 5:11)