‘My professor is my friend’

(Photo by Heather Davidson)
(Photo by Heather Davidson)

Let’s be honest, if you’re one student in a class of hundreds or only have massive lectures throughout most of your university career, chances are your only interactions with your professors will be momentary and impersonal.

However, if you’re in a smaller class or have the same professor for multiple classes, like ones in your program, you might have the opportunity to get to know your professor on a more individual level. This could be achieved through classroom interactions, office hours or maybe even just running into each other on our smaller than small campus.

In most cases, these professor-student relationships can play an essential role in how a student performs in class and how they feel about their academic experience. With this being said, how “friendly” can this relationship get?In essence, my question here is: Can professors and students be friends outside of class?

It’s understandable that students would want to get to know their professors and benefit from the infinite knowledge. Tons of students attend Laurier because of the credentials of its faculty and by getting to know professors on a more personal level, students can learn from them even outside of the classroom.

From my experience, feeling more personally connected to your professors could also help you feel more engaged in class material. When you’re in a class and it feels like the professor is talking at you instead of talking to you, it can be extremely hard to get excited about the topics being covered.

If you develop a friendship with the professor you might care more about what they have to say and might even end up feeling progressively more comfortable contributing in class and asking questions, which can seem like the ultimate social no-no.

However, it could be difficult for students to separate their personal friendships from their professional and academic duties, especially if the friendship is outside the classroom. For example, if a student does poorly on a paper, they may feel entitled to a higher grade no matter what, just because of the outside or in-class friendship. This can hinder everyone’s academic experience because more often than not, the professor is going to grade the work fairly despite the amicable relations.

This type of misjudgement can lead to hurt feelings and an unhealthy teacher-student relationship.  Set boundaries and keep the personal and professional separate. As it becomes obvious that a friendship is developing outside the classroom, have a talk about some ground rules so that both parties have an understanding about things like the appropriate way to address each other in class.

Also, don’t get too personal until the class is done with. Even though friendship between professors and students can be advantageous when handled properly, for closer friendships it’s a good idea to put them on hold until the two individuals aren’t in the same classes any more. It’s all about balance.

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