Once in a while, you have one of those great stories of students, students encountered when they were in your class and have a story.
Just a few years ago, I had a student in my online French course at Oakton who was pushing forty years old. He told me the story of his educational experiences while in high school. He found the experience to be less than fun and actually unpleasant.
While a student in my class, he was working fulltime in Technology at a local major, national company in Deerfield, where I live. He had decided that he was going to do a test run to see if he could complete his education. He was so turned off of education, that he had not finished his undergraduate degree.
His progress in my class was amazing. In talking to him, it was clear to me that he was extremely intelligent. It was also evident that his issues in school were not due to the fact that he was a less than proficient student. I could easily tell that he had been bored in school and acting out. It was also obvious that his intelligence had more than likely been completely intimidating to his teachers.
It made me think of several things that happened to me while teaching. I remember that some teachers were always interested in sharing their experiences with students the following year, when they ended up in my class. Some of my peers would want to sit down and get a blow by blow report of how students had performed in their class. I declined when it came time to hearing these reports as I wanted to have a chance for students to have a ‘clean slate’ when they entered my class and allow me to make a judgment, if I could even call it that. I also remember having students that drove my peers crazy. I found them delightful. It is important, in my estimate, to remember that it is likely that as a teacher that we shall have individuals in our classes who are more intelligent than we are. We just need to know how to work with them and harness their passion and expertise for the benefit of all. When I had them in class, I utilized their knowledge to further mine and the rest of the class. We all benefitted.
Anyway, Alex told me of his dreams and how he thought he would possibly talk to his widowed mom, ask for some financial help, quit his full-time job, and go to school full-time. He had a goal of undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and then his doctorate. I agreed with him that it was a great goal and that he should go with it.
Alex is a very personable, engaging individual, very interested in French, doing very well, and has a passion and desire to succeed. It made me sad that in his educational career that he had never encountered that one individual instructor who might have helped him make sense of the situation which might have allowed him to continue.
Before he completed Oakton’s curriculum, which he did quite quickly, he connected with the President of Oakton, who brought him in for a special evening meal meeting. She loved his story. How could you not?
Just the other day, I got a request on Linked In from Alex. He sent me a message. He is Phi Beta Kappa and soon to graduate from the Undergraduate program at the University of Illinois’ Chicago campus. He is still planning on going to graduate school.
My philosophy: Don’t ever judge people or think that you have enough information to categorize them. I have known way too many students who had sometimes lackluster performance, only to return to see me later with tales of great success. It is wrong to judge. Everyone has different issues; everyone matures on an individual timetable.
Communcating with Alex made my day, maybe even my year. I love stories like that.