Monday, February 21, 2011

I'm So Proud Of My Students!

We get them for a class or two
And then we let them go
We hope we’ve changed the way they think
As much as what they know
Too often, though they’re doing well
We cannot watch them grow
Though sometimes (but too rarely),
They’ll stop by to say hello

When friends ask, all too often,
Why I do the work I do,
I’m forced again to notice
That it doesn’t pay—it’s true,
But pity those who never hear
At all, their whole lives through:
“My world has changed forever,
And it’s all because of you”

Meh--what a saccharine little verse.  If I were not in such a good mood, it would never see the light of day.  But today, in two separate and independent incidents, former students (from just last semester, in this case) sought me out to tell me how my class had pretty much ruined them (in a good way!) for a class or two they were in this semester.   Basically, there were topics they were being presented with which... are not supported by either research or logic.  Their classmates, for the most part, don't know this, or if they do, they are keeping quiet.  My former students, though... I'll probably hear some complaints from these profs.

I'm used to it by now.  I love it.

I'm not going to mention what the topics are, or what the differences in claims are;  clearly, this blog is not the place to publicly identify someone, even by accident.  You can take my word for it that I am right, or you may feel free to doubt.  Doesn't bother me a bit. 

I'm just (uncharacteristically, I know!) crowing a bit.


Anonymous said...

So, are you saying I should track down Dr. Mumford from 1984? He was really concerned about my final course review. It took a good five years for what he was trying to teach to sink in, and another ten for it to change my thinking. I feel bad that he doesn't know about that.

Cuttlefish said...

Why not, Howard?

If you feel bad about it, there's your motivation; could even be easy at this point, to track him down!

Anonymous said...

Oooh! It took a while, but I found him! Turns out to be a fairly common name, so I had to put some thought into search strings and domains.

I think, however, that I will wait until I am sober to draft the actual email.

Anonymous said...

The email I sent Dr. Mumford:

"Earlier this evening, I was reading a blog post by an academic who waxed poetic about how nice it is to hear from students who "get it."

Anyway, reading this I was struck by memories of the African-American Music History course I took with you as a B.M. Jazz major back in -- what? 1983? 1984? It seems so long ago.

I got an A in the course on the merits, but at the close of the class you asked all of us to write a short essay on what we learned from the course, which wouldn't be graded. You asked me to come see you when you read my essay, and I panicked. I'd already earned my grade, and I just wasn't ready for that conversation. So I blew it off and ran away. Because I was, and still am, a weak man.

As I recall through the haze of passing years, I had written some (g)libertarian bullshit about racism and culture that I'd like take to this belated opportunity to disavow completely. The stupid essay I'd written, and your reaction to it, and my reaction to your reaction, is something that ate at me for years. It was probably five or six years after I graduated that the word "privilege" started to mean something real to me. And then I realized my mistake. And of course, in the intervening 20 years, a whole constellation of life experience has refined that conception.

All of this you taught me, when I was not ready to hear it. Sometimes it takes a while after finals week to find out you made a difference. The lessons you taught me make a difference when I get on the bandstand to play music, or when I work with younger musicians in need of guidance. But they also resonate with me when I walk through the neighborhood, when I encounter people outside my usual social circle, and when I enter the voting booth.

So, belatedly, thank you for everything you've given me,"


Cuttlefish said...


Seriously, wow. That's great, man; it he isn't moved to tears, I'll eat my laptop computer.

Melissa said...

Howard, that's wonderful!

I still hear from former students every now and then. Those messages always manage to improve my day.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I've had multiple students in my critical thinking classes come back and tell me that they were raising hell in other classes where the evidence and reasoning behind claims being made by readings and even professors were not up to scratch. Ultimately, that's pretty much the only evidence for teaching effectiveness and long-term impact I've ever gotten, and I feel lucky to get even that. But those few bright, shining moments are my biggest motivation for continuing to do what I do. (It sure as hell isn't the money.)

Markr1957 said...

Now I feel as though I should have written to my old Mathematics teacher and thanked him for teaching critical thinking (and teaching me to test an answer using as many methods as you know), and for demonstrating that being in a minority of one doesn't mean I'm wrong, and that a majority of 99% doesn't make them right.
I went to school in Britain, so we learned to think critically before we were admitted to university ;-)

Cuttlefish said...

Is it too late, Markr?