“You’re so chill” said a student at the end of a conversation she struck up with me yesterday. And I was thinking, “I love undergrads, and isn’t it really cool to grow older and have these young people think well of me?”
It was my first day of class yesterday. The class went well, but about half the students didn’t show up (the room for the class is in a weird location so even those who showed up came a bit later than usual) and class was ending. After the last student filed out, another student was walking in asking if she was in the right room for the next class. Of course I don’t know who’s using the room after me for which course, but I confirmed the room number. I also asked her to pass me some M&Ms a student had left on a desk farther away from me (I used snacks as part of an activity in class earlier). She asked me if I was the professor, and when I said yes, she asked me what I teach. I told her, then asked why she was asking. And she said the “chill” line. We talked a little more. I’m not exactly sure what she saw in the span of 5 minutes, or if she’d looked through the window earlier or what… But it felt good to hear it.
When I first started teaching undergrads, they were mainly freshmen, and I was always interested in a particular look in their eyes you don’t see with graduate students. Freshmen have this look of wonder in their eyes that lights up when they learn something new. It’s really beautiful. Now I’m teaching older students, and they’re really in this phase of becoming adults, and you can see the way their thinking is maturing, and you can have a really serious adult conversation with them and learn something valuable. They have a different perspective because of their age and experience and I think a more open mind than they will as they get older, and this openness they bring, coupled with who they are and what they’ve already experienced makes class really enriching for all of us. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to be in their company for a few hours a week and listen to their thoughts.
I think if all teachers took time to listen to their students’ thoughts (ones not directly related to content but their thoughts in general beyond that) they’d enjoy it and know their students better and be able to help them learn better.