[R]eal teaching demands energy […]. To instruct calls for energy, and to remain almost silent but watchful and helpful, while students instruct themselves, calls for even greater energy. To see someone fall (which will teach him not to fall again) when a word from you would keep him on his feet but ignorant of an important danger, is one of the tasks of the teacher that calls for special energy, because holding in is more demanding than crying out.
– Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels
I think I am a good teacher. I know that I work hard at being one. I also know that many of my students find me a bit “tough” — and that for some this is to my credit, while for others it is not. In any case, at the end of each course my students evaluate me and tell me how they think I did. In a few instances I have received letters and notes of thanks in addition to the normal evaluations. As you might expect, I treasure them greatly.
Letter from a Lifelong Learning Student
This letter from a well-educated, middle-aged, upper-middle-class woman was sent to me following an adult lifelong learning liberal education course.
I want to tell you how much fun I had in your class this quarter. After the fall, I told a friend that I thought this particular group was a little hesitant to talk and that there never seemed to be much momentum in the conversation. But something about your teaching style or questions changed the dynamics, because, suddenly, everyone was talking simultaneously. I am not sure what you did to make this happen for the class as a whole, but I have some thoughts (aren’t you surprised?) about what I particularly liked.
I noticed that you seldom let a comment fade into thin air, but always challenged the speaker to explain it further. This not only provoked a lot of chatter, but it also ensured some depth to the discussion. And my impression of you as a person is that you are challenging, period, and few things escape your notice. Thus, not only did I never feel bored in your class, but I am currently suffering anxiety concerning my and usage in the writing of this evaluation.
But write I will, because of the two other qualities I have observed. One, is that you seem to have a sense of humor, so I always had a good laugh in your class. And two, despite your irreverence, you seem to have a good heart. Even if I had something silly to say, I always felt safe in saying it. I looked forward each week to your class, and I am very disappointed to come to its end.
Note from an Undergraduate Student
This note from a young single mother from a working class, immigrant background was written and given to me following the final exam of an undergraduate liberal education course.
Whether or not this class would be need it for my educational backgroung can be in question but I did learn how to read. I also enjoy and am happy about the fact that I was able to used all the book from class unlike other classes. But I do take with me the knowledge and success of reading. I might be a slow reader and have lack of words but I do know that I leave this class with something more great the ability to grab a book and understand it.
Email from an Undergraduate Student
This email was sent to me following the final exam of an undergraduate liberal education course.
Hi Professor Rose,
I just wanted to take the time to say thank you for everything that you have taught me this semester. I learned so much from you as a reader and writer. I feel that learning in your class taught me how to be more than just an active reader. Furthermore, I have become more of an observer and abstract thinker about readings and life from this class. You have truly prepared me to write, recognize my mistakes, and learn from the mistakes in my writings. More in depth, the same I would apply to the mistakes in life. I still have work to do with my writings and comprehension skills, but now I know what steps to take because of you. I enjoyed my time in your class! Thank you so much Professor Rose! I really hope that you have a great and safe winter break!