I have been extremely busy with grading. But I had an encounter that was a highlight this week.
I was watching a rather aggressive young Korean man talk to a black woman from the U.K.. I was just starting to notice that their interaction (the man) was rather loud. He was explaining something and was rather animated. And then I recognized him.
It was a student from my Screen English class a few semesters ago. I said, "I remember you!"
He looked at me, and then his eyes lit up. "I really enjoyed Screen English Class and I still meet members of my group!"
He was referring to the group that he had worked with that semester and the final project. They had changed the ending of the movie Dead Poets Society. The students have to think through romanticism and write it into their scripts and then perform it in class or as a short video clip.
"I appreciate that. For that class, I don't have to follow the rules." I was referring to the fact that I had complete freedom to design that class the way I wanted. I had also just had a less than pleasant conversation with administration about the rules that needed to followed for other classes. Rules that I genuinely believe are not fair on the students. And then the black woman spoke up.
"He means that! I know he does not like studying." She proceeded to move him and herself over toward my car while I processed what she had said.
The three of us chatted beside my car for a few minutes. We then said our goodbyes and I got in my car.
The whole encounter got me thinking about the story of Jesus healing ten men with leprosy. He tells them to show themselves to the priests. Only one man, a Samaritan, comes back and thanks him.
Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17:17-19
I have often been frustrated with teaching because I am never sure if they learned anything. I am also left wondering if all the work that I put into teaching makes any difference.
This young, aggressive, Korean man had given me some appreciated feedback. He represented the Samaritan in the story. He didn't exactly come back and say thank you, but the encounter was one that I appreciated and needed on exam week.
His aggressiveness marked him as different. I remembered that I had spent more than a little time deflecting his opinions and helping his group members get used to his blunt ways. He was definitely not an easy student.
There are students who behave well in class, are quiet when you need them to be quiet, and speak up when you want them to speak up. It's an English miracle that even happens with the way the education system works in Korea.
And maybe there are more miracles out there...
For all of you who feel frustrated with your work, I just want to let you know that there is at least 10% you have helped. 10% were changed. I don't know if they came back and said thank you, but you changed them. What you do matters.
And all of this was just in time for summer session which begins next week...