Saturday, December 01, 2012

Now, my turn to get emotional over what a student said ...

Yesterday, I got an email from a student, requesting that I serve as a reference.  In that email, she wrote:
You were my professor years ago, back in 2006. I asked you to help me with a independent credit through writing a paper. Maybe the topic might ring a bell. The paper explained why students from Hawaii chose to go to a college like WOU, a far location all the way in Oregon.
As if I could have ever forgotten this student.  Because, and as I wrote back to her:
Many times I have used you and your work as an example of how students can feel that they did something substantive as opposed to merely going through the motions of the class requirements.  I also remember that my comment made you emotional--when I said you can show that report to your mother and tell her, "look ma, I did this" .... I felt so terrible when you told me, after composing yourself, that your mother had passed away only a few months prior ....
It is such a typical line used so often in America: "look ma, .."  I felt so terrible when that phrase made this young woman cry. 

After I emailed her, I regretted even reminding her about my faux pas.  I worried that I might have made her cry all over again.

Turns out that it only prompted her to recall the rest of the story, which I had forgotten.  She--now a mother of two kids--writes:
You know the best thing that happened out of that emotional encounter was .... chocolate! You were so nice, and tried to console me with a bar of chocolate. And it absolutely worked. Until this day, when I visit the mainland and go to a Trader Joes, there is no way I'm leaving the store without that Belgium chocolate bar. So that incident was a true gem, and stuck with me all these years. Chocolate can fix any problem!
I suppose I felt so awful about having triggered an emotional response in her that I had forgotten what happened after that.

I am not surprised, however, that I offered her chocolate.  I do that even now.  Even when students do not cry in my office.

I have no idea about the lyrics in this old favorite of mine that I have embedded here ... the melody feels just appropriate for the moment ...

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Have a chocolate :)