Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We're Always Happy When Someone Makes It Over the Wall

Wow, you honestly surprised me. That first day, when you raised your hand and asked “Can we cancel class every Friday?” I figured I knew your type. When you sat in the back row with your feet on the desk and your hair covering your barely open eyes, I had you pegged. And when you failed your first paper, I was pretty darn sure I knew how the rest of the semester would go.

But then you raised your hand and made a comment about the reading. I don’t know which surprised me more–that you made an intelligent point or that you had done the reading. And I noticed it surprised you as well.

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I spent an hour goggling every sentence in your second paper, because I couldn’t believe the change. But when I compared it to your in-class writing, I realized that this was your work. This was a damn. And when I handed the paper back with a B, you were as stunned as I was. I realized you wrote that paper with no idea of how good it was; you just wrote it because you actually had something to say about the book.

After that, you took your feet off the desk. You went to the Writing Center for grammar help. You engaged with other students during class. Oh, you were still the surfer dude who would say things like “this writer is totally wack,” but that’s okay. Because after the last class you hung around for a half hour to tell me how much you’d changed since first semester. Apparently, your friends stopped calling you “Jack Daniels” and you passed all your classes.

I don’t know what clicked for you. Was it the readings? The particular mix of students? Me? I’d like to think I had something to do with it. But even if I didn’t, I wanted to thank you. I’ve had excellent students, and I’ve had horrible, slacker students. But until you, I’ve never had one cross from the latter camp to the former. Now, the next time a student puts his feet on the desk and falls asleep in the first week, I’ll have a tiny shred of hope that things can change.