At the end of our last Spanish class for the semester, a few of the students stayed behind to chat and visit for a few minutes. They were an excellent group and had interacted well throughout the semester. Many of them thanked me for a good class, which I always appreciate.
One student, Sam, we’ll call him, said something I’ve never heard before and it shocked me in a way that few comments from a student have in 16 years of teaching.
“You’re the first instructor at university to learn my name,” he said. “I really appreciate that.”
I reeled in disbelief.
“What year are you in?” I asked.
“Third year,” he replied. “I’m on schedule to graduate next year.”
“What’s your major?” I probed further.
“Sciences. This is the only class I’ve ever had that has fewer than 100 people in it. None of the other profs learn our names. I suppose they can’t with that many students.”
I nodded in agreement. My classes have grown in size since I started teaching and with 35 students this year, it took me longer than usual to learn everyone’s name.
He went on to say, “I want to be a science teacher, but not here. I want to work in a place where I can get to know my students. This place is a factory.”
Not wanting to enter a discussion on the state of post-secondary institutions today, I simply remarked that I thought he had many qualities that would make him a good teacher.
He’s got good, solid grades and comes to class on a regular basis. He’s interested and engaged, polite and congenial. He’s got a decent work ethic and works well with other students in class. His classmates like him and he gets along with just about everyone. He’s not a super-duper genius, and nor is he a complete trouble maker. That’s part of the trouble, I suppose. Not being at the far end of either side of the scale, he gets lost in the crowd.
How sad… this student pays thousands of dollars a year in tuition for higher education and even as he approaches graduation, almost no one knows his name. As educators, we make a powerful connection with our students when we learn their names (or at least try).
Share this post: The shocking thing my student said http://wp.me/pNAh3-pu
Update – November, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.7 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!
Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.