Friday, November 9, 2007

Students Who Sustain Me

Amidst my students who ignore directions, procrastinate, and plagiarize, shine the students for whom I do this whole teaching thing. A good percentage of my students work hard and honestly, but they treat researching and writing like tooth hygiene: annoying but not worth the penalty of skipping it. For a smaller, but significant percentage of my students, researching and writing becomes addictive. They fall in love with the intoxication of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I try to breathe these students and their enthusiasm in; its nectar needs to sustain me through grading the pile, after all…

One student wrote a rough draft of a thesis statement in favor of one group in an ethical dilemma, but when he turned in the final draft, he had completely switched sides. I don’t really care which side of the argument students choose, but I commented on his switch. “You noticed that, huh? Yeah, I wrote the first one before I’d really read any of the articles. That first argument was my opinion based on just stuff I’d heard other people say. But when I started reading the research, I just couldn’t feel that way anymore, so I switched my argument around.” Seriously, a speech like that from a student makes me weep. That’s all I’m really going for here, for students to learn to find their own information and form their own opinions. That’s why a democracy educates everyone, right? We don’t always get to see that kind of growth during one semester, so when I catch a glimpse, I savor it…

Another student came to me with her revelations. “I thought I knew about this subject,” she exclaimed. “But so much has happened with it in the courts during the last year or two that the whole issue is changing! This issue is so important to me, but I haven’t been paying much attention. I didn’t realize that the way our government works can change things so quickly! I’m going to write my Senator, and I’m talking to my family about making a donation to some non-profits that work on it, too.” Okay, I wrote about this student in my journal. I wrote a sticky note about it and stuck it to my monitor. While I’m weeding out those who copy/paste, other students are truly starting to care about their society and are beginning to understand how research and writing impact their relationship to the big, bureaucratic machine.

These students count as so much more than their total number or percentage. They will be leaders throughout their lives. I write about them to praise them, but also, to force them to occupy my mind a little longer. I obsess over those who quit or cheat or fail to engage; somehow, it is much harder to remember those who learn to fly. These students fill my spirit, and I believe their excitement will inspire many of their fellow students as well.

co-posted on Between Classes: Living a Balanced Life as a Quality Teacher

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would be hopeless without those precious few.