classrooms · grad school · positive thoughts as I fill out grant applications · saving my sanity

I’m giving thanks for my students

I’d like to give thanks–as we roll on into the Thanksgiving weekend like so many wheelie bags dragged out to the Greyhound stop on campus, bumping along inexorably toward turkey, family, a long weekend, a keg-tapping ceremony, a chance to catch our breath or catch up on our work or catch some zzzs–for my students.

This semester is a little weird for me because I’m teaching two courses on essentially the same topic at the opposite ends of the higher education journey–one is a first year course and one is a graduate course. I’m excited to teach these courses as part of two new digital media curricular initiatives in my department. I love the challenge of creating new courses in my area of research, and it’s pretty cool how the courses overlap with one another into a seamless digital media dork-out, but what’s really making the semester so rewarding … is the students.
So. I’m giving thanks to my students for:
  • using internet anonymizers to send me reading material related to the course, for fun
  • admitting they don’t know what they’re doing, and cheerfully asking for help to get better
  • challenging me when they think I’m wrong
  • measuring what we learn in class against what happens in the world
  • showing up to a draft workshop even when their drafts aren’t done, because they don’t want to miss class
  • coming to my office during office hours, just to talk to me
  • volunteering answers even when they’re not sure 
  • doing such damn good presentations
  • taking it seriously
  • taking it lightly
  • laughing at my jokes
  • being open to whatever class brings
  • taking their scribbled-over first drafts home and writing kick-ass second drafts
  • sharing a little bit of the story of their lives with me
I’m giving thanks to other peoples students for:
  • talking about class in the hallway
  • sitting in the sun declaiming poetry
  • hunching together over a textbook solving equations together
  • reading on the bus, while walking, in lineups, sitting on steps
Sometimes we see this student / teacher relationship as antagonistic. They complain about us, we complain about them, someone creates a crasher-squirrel / exam book mashup, and someone compiles a so-awful-it’s-hilarious list of exam-answer howlers. There are reasons for all of this, of course. But I’m just really struck this week by how much energy, how much fun, how much smarts, how much talent, how much vulnerability, just how much students bring with them onto campus. Students, I like you guys. I don’t want to be friends with you, necessarily, but working with you on this shared project of advancing our personal and collective knowledge? It is the Zippo that sparks my best jokes, my clearest explanations, my most careful editing, my most intriguing ideas. And for that, I thank you.

Still, crasher squirrel thinks you need to work on your penmanship!
[How about you, dear reader? If you are a student, please bask in the glow of the thanks; if you teach, do you have any inspiring story about why you too might give thanks for students?]

4 thoughts on “I’m giving thanks for my students

  1. I give thanks for people who craft phrases like “seamless digital media dork-out.”

    No, seriously. This term I'm teaching 340 first-years in one class, 60 in another, and 7 in a third. The third is an experimental seminar in a field about which I am absolutely a novice, but peopled with these inspirational fourth-year kids who just really wanted to learn about this stuff. They're smart, genuine, and interested, and while I always thought I was a bit out of step around here because I'd probably prefer a lecture course to a seminar, this three-hour stint every Wednesday is what inspires me to get through the rest of this rather hellish term of overload!


  2. I give thanks for my first years who have been enthusiastically packing into a tiny room to learn how metaphors work, the difference between fricatives and plosives, and what each of the metrical feet mean. I've never had such a universally dedicated bunch. I'm also grateful for the students in other classes who are patient and supportive when I repeatedly have to catch their peers up. And then there are the students who are patient with me when I get sick or distracted and don't get back to them as quickly as I ought.

    Students rock. We wouldn't be here without them.


  3. This semester I'm not teaching (sniff!), but I want to give a shout-out to my amazing grad students, whose ingenuity startles me over and over, and whose goodwill never ceases to amaze me. I don't know whether they will feel comfortable being named, but I'm thinking about each of you (you know who you are!) as you read, send job apps, write grant apps, set off for colloquia, organize public presentations, prep for exams, teach, and support each other. Know this: you make this place – the university, the world – better for all of us.


  4. I want to also thank my students–especially those who were in 302 and 354 with me some years ago. You folks may not know it but, despite having taught solo several time before, it was that year, with those classes that I felt I could do this job. And it wasn't because I hit a groove alone, nope, it was because the theory students and the poetry students were so generous, critically engaged, and willing to work creatively in those classes. Thanks y'all.


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