As I gather my belongings at the front desk after all other students have left the classroom, one student stays behind. He holds his baseball hat by its curved brim in one hand and lightly smacks it into his open palm before he speaks.
"Now that all of your grading for me is done," he begins, "there's something I'd like to tell you."
I'm accustomed to students making appeals at this late point in the semester. So accustomed that I warily scan my inbox for messages with the brief, yet telling, subject line that reads Final Grade. (If only students consistently demonstrated as much rhetorical vigor throughout the semester as they do when they're requesting extra credit at the end.)
But this student wasn't making an appeal for me to consider his grade more favorably. He was simply taking a moment to thank me for turning a class that many students dread -- a class that he had avoided for seven semesters, in fact -- into a rewarding experience.
"You should know that you're the best professor I've had."
In that one moment, I'm filled up so deeply.
Fifteen weeks ago before the semester began I visited this classroom, then empty, to scout out the layout. I had stood at this very spot and read aloud from my roster, calling out the name of each student, praying for their studies, for their physical and emotional wellness, for their choices, for their futures, and asking for the wisdom necessary to offer the most fitting instruction, encouragement, and correction into their lives.
In the weeks that have followed, I've planned lectures, and taught classes, and offered feedback, and assigned grades, and doubted my efficacy, and held small philosophical debates within my own head ("what is a B, exactly?"), and poured out energy and time and concern and love because I don't merely want to teach a public speaking course; I want to create better thinkers and communicators. I want to impact lives. I want students to know that even on a campus of over 40,000 students, they're seen. They're heard. They're known.
And that's exactly what this student did for me, with his baseball cap in hand. Once again I'm reminded why I do this job.
Image compliments of Max Klingensmith (Flickr)