Thursday, October 04, 2007

One Bright Shining Moment



While it might seem that I have only complaints to air about students, there is the occasional bright moment with a student that makes this teaching gig worthwhile.

At the beginning of the semester, I had a student come up after class to indicate his extreme trepidation at the prospect of going back to school. He had lost his job of some 20 years, and was now returning to school under a special grant to help retrain displaced workers. He hadn’t written a paper in decades. Based on the quiver in his voice and the tremor in his hand, his nervousness was quite genuine, and not a ploy to elicit my sympathy.

Well, he absolutely nailed the first assignment. He understood all the parameters of writing a narrative, and selected a topic that was absolutely on prompt. As a result, he got one of the few A s earned in the class. He was shocked. Stunned. And of course pleased.

Today, he stopped by to talk about his next paper. He indicated he is using the on-campus writing center that we have, which includes both peer evaluators and tutors. This time, his voice was strong, and his hand steady.


He comes to class daily; he enters into discussions willingly. No excuses, none of the ennui that typifies too many younger students.

I have watched this student changing from a middle-aged man who had the stuffing knocked out of him through his job loss, to a man who sees the glimmer of a new future on the horizon. His demeanor shows someone who has gained new self-confidence.

One bright shining moment! That’s what keeps me teaching.

11 comments:

dguzman said...

Oooh, those are the golden moments that make teaching rock. I had a "non-traditional" student who'd never read a book, not even a romance novel or a kid's picture book. I got her through Jurassic Park for the class, and then she begged me to make her a reading list of must-reads (which I of course stacked with tons of classics plus Toni Morrison and others). She was definitely one of those bright shining moments. Still, after six years, I gave it up and I've not regretted my decision. But you keep on truckin'! The world needs good teachers!

Mary C said...

Hi Donna - it's so nice to hear about those "older" students. I was an "older" student back in the late 80s and early 90s. There's something to be said about those who are most willing to learn, knowing they have a goal and knowing how to accomplish it within a reasonable amount of time. I would have to say that if I had gone to college when I was younger I probably would not have appreciated all there was to learn back then.

Anvilcloud said...

I taught one or two adult students and quite enjoyed them.

Jess Riley said...

That? Is awesome...my dad teaches college English, and I love hearing about the "bright shining moments" in teaching.

Good for you and your star pupil! :)

Liza Lee Miller said...

Love it! As an older student myself, I have to say that I got straight As this time through in college when prior to that I was lucky to get a B average. Dedication is something that many young students don't really understand. :)

I'm also smiling because I am starting to teach the Narrative form to my students tomorrow. I love that the learning of such things never ends but I don't think that I'll mention to my 5th graders that they'll still be working on narratives in college. Might dissuade some of them from giving it their best shot! :)

Beverly said...

That makes it all worth it, doesn't it. Wonderful.

RuthieJ said...

What a great story, Donna. Thank you for sharing another great story about how teachers can make a difference.

Mary said...

Touching story, Donna. Teachers do make a difference - every day. It's true that the frustrations of teaching sometimes overshadows the good that takes place.

There was a large pegboard in the faculty dining room. It was mounted there for one reason only - for teachers to share "good news" and affirmations in the classroom. It was much better to read than the daily detention list.

Jean said...

What a great story - good luck to him .

cat59 said...

How gratifying for him and for you. BTW, I love the word ennui!

Grace, Every Day said...

Yay! Thanks for sharing the good one...but we still crave info about Mac-n-Cheese girl, you know...how's her ennui? :-)