My time at UCR is regretfully coming to an end. Soon, my three years spent in this beautiful bubble will become a memory that I will look back at with a wistful sense of nostalgia. Over the years there have been many hurdles, many doubts and many nightly feelings of a gnawing sense of panic building up in my chest as I mindlessly clicked on the next episode of a Netflix show knowing that I still had to finish an essay due at 23:59. I learned to master many things at UCR: the art of procrastination, the art of cooking on a budget, the art of making friends, but most of all, the art of appreciation.
At UCR, I have had many great classes, taught by professors who I could see were passionate about their subject and noticeably cared about their students. I would passively enjoy those classes, sit there, listen, think about when to do my laundry, and leave again with a muttered goodbye. The feeling of appreciation for the class remained a silent song in my mind, never daring to venture forth to cross the threshold of my lips. Actively voicing that I enjoyed the class was not so simple, especially to my introverted self. It required me to do something, say something, perhaps at the cost of earning a negative reception to my small words of gratitude. After all, professors are higher beings that can crush me with the palm of their hand.
But they’re not. They’re just like us. Human. Just because you only see them in their professional environment where they have to present themselves as authoritative figures doesn’t mean that they cannot be hurt or be happy.
It is easy to feel resentment toward our professors when we feel like we have been treated unfairly. And it is in those moments of anger that we have enough courage to speak these words of indignation to those people who may have made the exam too hard or not taught what was in the reading.
But even for the most extroverted and outspoken ones of us it is hard to say nice things.
“I loved the class!”
“I enjoyed how the subject was taught!”
“I had a great professor!”
Yet, we do say these things. A lot. I hear and read them all the time. Except, those are words of gossip among students and friends, words that will rarely reach the ears of the person who was the reason they were spoken in the first place. We do not speak those kindhearted words to the rightful addressees out of fear of spurring a negative response. But why? Why would anyone be angry if you said something nice about them? Do you not feel a sense of joy bubble up in you whenever someone gives you a genuine, unsolicited compliment? If you feel it, anyone else feels it too, and that includes the higher, indestructible beings that we think our professors are.
So why not let that professor or other ‘higher being’ know those kind words that you whisper among students, whether it is via email, carrier pigeon or in person—difficult now. Tell them what you admire about their teaching, perhaps it is their dedication to the subject, their motivation to help students, the stylish hat they wear, the great time and effort they put into classes, or something else. Let them know, and I’ll guarantee that you will bring a smile to their face during these stressful times—because, just like you, they feel disheartened by the current situation.
And if you don’t feel like saying much, you can always murmur a simple “thank you”.