Today a student came in to my office to talk with me about its final paper. It actually had a finished copy of the paper, along with what seemed to be a gift bag with nice tissue embellishments.
I thanked it for the bag and put it aside, remarking that I would open it when the student was no longer my student. Then I took the paper and began to look it over. Meanwhile the student, glowing with pride and accomplishment, told me the story of how the paper came together – how, in thinking about how to synthesize its first two papers it had poked at a little research, found something unfamiliar, followed it up, found something fascinating, followed it up, and ended up with something that was dramatically richer and more interesting than anything it had ever done before.
This student thought gen ed World History was going to be an unpleasant waste of its time, and was initially put off by my loopy, open-ended style. This is the student who later said that the class made it realize it had not known how to think critically.
I looked the paper over. It was well-written and full of research and thought. I could see I was going to learn things I didn’t know. I asked the student what the main theme of its new understanding was. What it told me was terrific but only tangentially stated in the first paragraph, which was otherwise excellent, so I suggested it make its point more explicit and review the paper one last time for focused development of that point. The last edit that goes from A- to A.
Christmas has come early for this teacher. I really don’t care what’s in the bag.