Classroom Victories

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It's the time of semester when the plagiarists and the liars and the slackers are getting to me, so I'm going out of my way here to acknowledge the students who've helped me get through the last week or two.

Last week, a nontraditional student from last semester stopped by. She was extremely bright in class, never hesitating to engage with difficult texts, but her writing was weak, and after a couple of rough papers, she really pulled things together.  I hadn't seen her since the final exam. She expressed how happy she was to see me and thanked me for her good grade. I gave her the standard line about how I don't give grades, but she grinned and told me she wanted to send me flowers. I told her to send herself some flowers and to keep up the great work. She was so excited that it brightened my whole day. (I really hope she got herself some flowers.)

Then another former student stopped by to thank me for my help and to give me chocolate! Chocolate!

Today, one of my lit students came by to discuss a potential paper topic. "I just love this book now, " she beamed. "I hated it the first time I read it, but now it's so much fun to talk about it!"

And one of my comp students was in my office reviewing a paper from early in the semester. "I can't believe I ever thought this was good," she said, laughing. "I've come such a long way thanks to this class."

I love those light bulbs and smiley faces.

As you probably deduced from my moniker, I teach math.  Generally, when I tell people what I teach, they either a) shy away with a mumble of "gotta go" or b) tell me about their worst experience ever in mathematics.  My students are no different.  Well, yesterday a student of mine told me that she has decided to be a math/science teacher because now she really likes and understands math.  She didn't say it had anything to do with taking my class, but I'm putting a tally in the "victory" column for converting someone to my cult discipline.

Yesterday, I'm teaching the five-number summary to my Math for Poets class. Upon mentioning boxplots, one student pipes up.

Stu: Grr. I hate boxplots. Why do we need to do them?
Me: Well, I think they're pretty important. So, even though they're not in your book, we're going to do them. Why do you hate boxplots?
Stu: They're so complicated.
Me <perplexed>: Complicated?
Stu: Yeah. I just don't get how to do them. There're so many steps.

I continue with the lesson, and when I'm done, I ask for questions.

Stu: That's it? There's supposed to be more to it.
Me: Nope. That's it. The boxplot is done.
Stu: Wow. That's not how my HS teacher explained it AT ALL. Thanks.

Unfortunately, I've already done the SETs for this semester in that class, but several students seemed to be nodding in agreement with Stu that they never realized how easy boxplots were to construct. I am now a god (or maybe a demigod) to these students.

My worst class this semester had its best session last night.  The students came prepared, they were engaged with the literature and each other, and they enjoyed the video clip that I showed.  I was already feeling pretty good about how things had gone when one student said at the end of class (while everyone was getting up to leave):  "Everybody, I just want to say that tonight's class was the best.  The best."  Another student e-mailed me today to say that he was so inspired by the material that he now knows what he's going to do his presentation on.  And he actually thanked me. 

What alternate universe am I in, and can I stay please?

I'm loving these victories, everyone. Thanks for sharing.


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