Daily Archives: January 9, 2012
Happy New Year! I’m not going to apologize or feel guilty for not blogging in a while, but I will warn that this is completely non math teaching related.
And the winner of “Favorite Student Interaction of 2011” goes to…
Mitch was a student in my non-AP Calculus class this fall and was struggling. His overall grade was floating in the 30s and it was looking pretty bleak. One day, I popped out of my apartment to grab something from the dorm kitchen. I passed through the dorm and noticed Mitch sitting in the common room, which was strange because he did not live in my dorm. I greeted him and then continued on my business, going into the narrow alleyway that leads to the tiny, little enclosed kitchen.
I looked behind me and Mitch had followed me in there. Grinning, he says “I’m sorry Mr. Rami, but I’m going to have to kill you now” (NB: Rami is my Arabic name).
My mind: What!? Is he serious? I mean, he could be, he’s not doing well in the class. But no, that’s crazy. Things like that don’t happen in real life. I’m not Samuel L. Jackson in one of those turn-around-the-violent-inner-city-school stories.
My mouth: [makes a nervous chuckle]
At this point, he pulls something out of the bundle he was carrying… a bejeweled Bedouin dagger in its sheath.
My mind: Ho-o-okay, that’s officially the first time someone has pulled a weapon on me. I think he is serious. I’m trapped in this narrow kitchen and I’m officially freaked out.
My eyes: [widen in panic]
I think he could tell I was a bit nervous, so in an attempt to soothe me he pulls the knife out of its sheath. He says, “Don’t worry, it’s not sharp.” Then, he puts the knife up to his face and demonstrates that it’s not sharp by running it along each of his cheeks.
My mind: Okay, I feel like saw Hannibal Lector do that in a movie and then slice the crap out of someone to eat their brains. This image in my mind is slowly morphing into Mitch doing the same to me. Not very helpful.
My face: [has a look of panic that has spread from eyes to other facial features]
Finally, seemingly confused that his actions are having eliciting these reactions from me, Mitch shows me that the face of the blade has “Rami” engraved in Arabic (رامي) on it. It was a gift, and this was the wonderful way that he decided to present it to me. He handed me the engraved dagger and a Jordanian keffiyeh, a completely unprompted, middle of the semester gift, which was perhaps perplexing, but really nice. He told me he wanted to give it to me because I enjoyed “Bedouin things” (not sure how he came to that conclusion). I asked him where he got it and he said he wasn’t sure because his driver had picked it up for him. Well… okay. Sweet gesture though.
I honestly don’t think he was giving it to me so that I would bump his grade, or get in my favor in any way. I think he actually just wanted to express his appreciation to me… for something, I’m not sure what. It reminded me of what I found to be one of the most surprising things I found out about teaching. I was always a really good student and teachers liked me so I think I kind of assumed that teachers only really liked the good students. I quickly found out that this is patently false – some of my favorite students over the past three years have been some of the ones who have struggled most. Conversely, I have less-than-enjoyed a handful of the A students I have taught.
So thank you Mitch for reminding me how wonderful it is to be able to see potential in everyone and for making me wet my pants for the first time since 1st grade.*