I was going through a really tough time this semester and Professor Kartal was very understanding and supportive of my situation. Aside from accommodating my situation, we had a long conversation in which he reassured me and encouraged me to push forward. He's emphatic and genuine when he listens to you. One of the best professors I've had so far in my undergrad.
"The death of a beloved one, a break-up, or anything that upsets us hurts the soul as much as an accident hurts the body". I wish I could remember who said this so I could give credit to the person, but this quote sums up the importance of mental health for me. In other words, mental health is as important as physical health although we tend to overlook this, due not only to stigmatization, but also the latency of its development in the Western world compared that of the to physical health.
I humanize everything I teach. How? I don't see teaching as a mechanical process in which students are merely the recipients of the data I pass onto them, but I see my courses as a stage in the lives of students which they experience as humans. Therefore, just as in any other stage in life they will take lessons, but "on the side", they will see the beautiful and the ugly face of life, be it sharing memorable moments with beloved ones, or losing one of them. When? Just as they are taking my course. So, I consider my teaching and their learning process holistically, i.e. not as an isolated experience, but one during which they will experience many other things.
Another part of the humanizing process is to look like a human while teaching. I do that by smiling at my students, owning up to my mistakes, so that when they make their own, they won't think that this uber-human professor is a robot immune to making mistakes. Also, I complain about the 8:30 AM classes; I dislike them. Why? Because a human likes and dislikes things, a robot doesn't.
While going over the requirements of any assignment, I tell my students that they should let me know if they experience mental or physical health issues, and I make sure to accommodate their needs. To me, a student making an effort to submit an assignment after the deadline is better than one that ghosts and does not put any effort in it. Lastly, accommodating their needs is bigger than asking for accommodation letters. You got to be in the right mind to find out how to get that letter, do it, and follow up. Sometimes humans feel so bad that they can't even get themselves a glass of water, let aside reading and digesting chunks of information. Also, can we always get official documentation for everything? For instance, does anyone issue death certificates for pets? I don't believe so, thus we have to trust what students say when they talk to us.
Educators should always keep in mind that students will remember them, not just what they teach. To leave a good impact on students, we need to look like and act like a human, not a super-knowledgeable robot. They can obtain knowledge from Google, but they can't learn humanity from it. Even Siri wouldn't know. Cheers!
--- Kerim Kartal