Sunday, April 26, 2015

Our Students’ Gifts to Us

Jim Schaefer

One of the very nice things about teaching is that frequently what students write at the end of a semester can lift your spirits as a teacher. That happened to me this semester, which had been a very difficult and demanding time for various reasons.

My epiphany happened as I was grading papers for the last full week of classes. I ask each student to write what I call a “portfolio” journal about what she or he learned during the semester.

What one student wrote in her journal was what I regard as a gift to me because it was so insightful. Her very first sentence caught my attention when she said, “Both semesters I have shared with you have each taught me a lot, not only about my writing but my character as well.” That was wonderful, but then she went on about how the essays that she wrote in her class showed her “that I am capable” of doing that.

Even more interesting to me, she shared how she had decided to write letters to loved ones when she was “feeling emotional.” That didn’t always work out well, but she was pleased that she was able to express herself and share her thoughts, where before that, she would stay silent. She ended her journal by saying that the “most important thing” that she learned was “that I am capable of taking my writing to any level I put my mind to.” Her final sentence was, “Thank you for sitting me down and letting me be me.”

Those kinds of thoughts from a student make all the struggles worthwhile, indeed. They are gift, authentic and genuine.

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