If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Gift

My graduate-level class last semester was a small and intimate group of 9 students. During the course we covered a lot of social constructions (gender, race, class, etc) as well as a number of sensitive subjects such as abortion and adolescent pregnancy. The class did an amazing job of tackling these issues. They struggled with the concepts individually and as a group. Even though they came from very diverse perspectives the discussions were always balanced, fair and respectful. I was proud of their work and happy with the class as a whole.

One of my students is a doctoral candidate in a different department. She is an older student and comes from my mother's generation. She had great difficulty with the idea that gender is socially constructed and both the readings and the discussions often took her outside her comfort zone. She was very upfront in class and in her reading journals about her struggles and I really appreciated how she stayed with me in the course. I believe for many people it is easier to be dismissive of perspectives outside of your own world view.

Today she sent me an email with a story attached. She told me she was waiting for grades to be done before she sent it to me. The story was of an everyday experience that occurred while she was gardening and she used the story to illustrate her views on many of the issues we discussed in class. She ended the story by stating that she was firmly entrenched in her view of sexual and gender boundaries and she wasn't willing to venture to other locations. She then complimented me and thanked me for being so sensitive with difficult topics.

My response to her was that as a teacher I don't look to change student's world views. I just want them to know there are other perspectives out there and to be able to think critically about them. I believe her story showed that she not only could do that but, 3 weeks after class had ended, was still doing just that. It made me feel like I actually accomplished something last semester and that, as difficult as they are to have, these conversations belong in the classroom.

11 comments:

Dr. Bad Ass said...

Amazing story. I love to see students -- whether undergrad or grad -- continuing to think outside of class about ideas covered in class. Good for you that your teaching makes this possible.

hopeful #1 said...

Unrelated to this post. "The Brute" is beautiful! I love his markings!

Eliza said...

Aww...that ALMOST makes me miss teaching! Good on you, and good on her too. If you're a behavioral psych type perhaps you'd be interested in purchasing tickets to dinner at my house? I have three children with various developmental delays and medical oddities, a husband with narcolepsy, and we ALL have ADHD, and typical dinner-table discussion revolves around concepts like eugenics (our issues are genetic) and the morality of end-of-life care (I'm not doing so hot right now). You and ALL of your friends could get thesis material. Me, I just laugh, because it beats crying, and make I-statements, and take Valium. Oh, Valium, how I love thee...mmm...greetings from NaComLeavMo!

kim wells said...

New blog digs: http://daydreamsdandelions.blogspot.com/

:)

momofonefornow said...

That is awesome. I just finished my associates at the local community college. I am moving on to get my bachelor's but there is one instructor that I am going to miss. She always pushed me harder than the other students. her explanation was always based on the fact that she believed I had it in me to be great and that required questioning the world around me and never excepting anything but the very best of what I had to give. That student will probably never forget you or your class!

Rachel said...

Visiting from NCLM...Good job. I bet that makes the whole semester worth it.

Deb said...

Hey Brig - Kitchen misadventures here!

If i "change the channel" does that mean you get it back. Cuz I'm all for that. It's better to give then receive (btw-what fool came up with that)

Kim said...

How wonderful. I agree I don' think any of the facts or opinions that I learned in school could even compare to my learning to be a critical thinker with an open mind. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher who really cares! It must feel so great to have such a positive impact on your students. I had a few teachers that really touched me and their teachings are still with me today! Here from NCLM

Ginny said...

What a great story! Visiting from NaComLeavMo and enjoyed this post very much.

Jendeis said...

Here from NaComLeavMo. What an inspiring and heartwarming post! It must feel so good to know that you are making a difference.

Kelly D said...

Here from NCLM. I'm an instructor too. I've been told I'm known for being hard but fair. One student told me he took my class because he heard that I'd teach him what he really needed to know - it's these little comments that make it all worth while. I love the growth stories more than any others. Congrats.