The Rewards of Teaching
This afternoon, I got a call from a former student who upon graduation, served as a TA for me for several semesters before finally getting into grad school in another state. He’s a sharp guy but struggles with test anxiety and related issues, which kept him from getting into the schools he wanted. However, now that he’s in a research lab, he’s starting to really do well. We’ve always had a special and close relationship, yet this is the first we’ve talked since he left town a year ago, so I was glad for the update.
He expressed a lot of frustration to me with the lack of independent thought by the other members of the group. He only started in the group this summer, yet has totally revamped several techniques that lab developed, nearly doubling the efficiency. As he talked, it was rewarding to hear him use words, discuss skills and express attitudes he learned from my courses, and that they seemed to be the keys to his successes. What made his words sweeter was that he didn't seem to realize what he was saying, where it came from. It was completely internalized.
It doesn’t happen often, but every so often a student ‘gets it’: internalizes the things you most wish to communicate to them. Then, when these same students succeed because of it, it goes a long way toward making the effort worth it, and even making you feel justified in your approach.
It gives you hope.