Wednesday, February 18, 2015
What Was Your Proudest Teaching Moment?
One of the best students I ever had--always prepared, asked good questions, challenged me when he thought I was skating around an issue...He wound up taking 3 or 4 courses for me.
But what made me proud was when he received his PhD in economics from UCLA. For me, that was an amazing success story, and almost entirely his.
One of my favorite moments came at the end of a World Literature class, when a student excitedly told me that she had gone to the local library the day before and gotten her first ever library card. She even pulled the card out of her wallet to show me. This was the same student who had told me she hated reading and thought it was a waste of time at the beginning of the semester! Now, on the last day of class, she was talking about checking out books written by the writers we had covered in class because she wanted to read more of their work.
My English teacher heart was overflowing that day.
In Peace Corps, students in my Eastern European country were fond of saying they had no racism in their country. While we were reading The Grapes of Wrath, one student asked me why no one would give the Joad family a job or a place to stay. I asked, "Are there people here who can't get a job because other people are afraid they will steal or commit crimes?" My students' eyes got big: "The Roma!" They finally understood how fear leads to prejudice, and how unnecessary that fear can be.
During our last break, a student emailed me, thanking me. He was being bullied by another student, who had threatened to out him as gay. After our lessons on carpe diem, on living life fearlessly, he found the courage to come out to his roommate and his family--all of whom supported him.
In all of these cases, the students did the work. The students made the connection. I am proud if I could help them see that our work in class was essential to helping them live better lives. Moments like this are why I teach.