Most instructors have likely experienced this. You get your mail in the department and you have a card from a former student that essentially says the following: I took your class a number of years ago and wanted to say thank you. I thought you were crazy, but now that I’ve been working I find that I think of you and the class fondly. I am sorry for being a jerk. Your class was important. Thank you. I appreciate the thanks, and I also appreciate the apologies for sarcasm or making the class discussion more difficult. These notes are quite meaningful.

Approximately ten times per year, I get emails, cards or Facebook messages like the above from my former students. Funny enough the cards are from an array of students and it is sloppy to say it is from the haters. The cards come from former students who are being honest. Some might think  that they were difficult, but I find that their memory and my memory vary. I can think of two very difficult groups over the years, and I have heard from one person out of that group, and the apology appeared honest at first. I say that, as that former student appeared lots in my social media being rather antagonistic. I wish I could say that the above is pure hyperbole. It is not.

Lately, this has happened more than most years. I think it’s the fact that the numbers of students that I have taught has increased or maybe it is the fact that I just finished my tenth year at the fourth university. They know how to contact me via snail mail, email or social media.

My point here is I have found that the students who send these notes surprise me. I am happily surprised that they contacted me. I am happily surprised with the thanks, and reminded about the privilege that I have working with them in the classroom. But, each card notes that I was approachable, enthusiastic or that my playing devil’s advocate made a difference. My students are not jerks. They are diligent, hard-working, exhausted, balancing lots, and do what they can. They are imperfect. And, so am I.

Great caption, excuse the f bomb


Points of Contact

It’s the first week of the term and I am thinking lots about interactions with people. I have been in line and heard someone tell a staff member that something minor was unacceptable. I was behind a student who kicked two doors open, instead of using his hand or forearm to open the door. These are only two examples, but I could share more about poor behavior. In both instances that I noted, I intervened. Is this one thing really unacceptable? Can you respect the library and not kick our doors, but use your hand or arm?  In both instances I was ignored, but the people around me commented positively. And, honestly, the poor service worker was quite thankful. She certainly does not set the price of food. 

How do you react when you see an adult having a tantrum or otherwise rude behavior toward another in public?  I include my screen shot of Entertainment Weekly with Rey on the cover. What type of Jedi are you? Hey it’s a new year and my post cannot be only heavy–it needs some levity.