I Am a Satellite Dish


Image via postsecret.

Damn gastritis has me down again. I’m now on a semirestricted diet and hoping that will clear it up without a visit to the doctor.

And today was the day, the real and true day, that my semester really and truly ended. I had class this morning at the special extradelicious exam hour of 8AM (no coffee for gastritis sufferers). My Leading Fearless Change class’ teams, including me and my partner Mallory, did our final PowerPoint presentations on the change we’d been working on all semester. Mine and Mallory’s project was to create a group blog for UNCA commuter students to support one another and share information — and get people to use it, which is where the real challenge lay.

I came home feeling poorly at about 11AM and sat down for a smoothie (gastritis sufferers get a liquid lunch) and to polish, one last time, my nearly-complete poli sci paper. I gave it what shine I could. It ended up not really being as exciting as I had thought it would be, although the material really was interesting. IMO de Soto’s book is one that could as easily been a pamphlet as a book, and its main ideas were few, and extremely easy to extract and summarize.

Then I looked at my two papers from my Fearless Change class that I’d gotten back today graded: my final paper and a written final exam that I took last week. Amazingly, I bombed my Fearless Change final exam with a 65! No lie, I had expected a low A or a B (!), and that only because the first group of questions was something that came out out of left field in the way that the odd question will once every semester or so, even when you study.

I’m not sure what happened with that exam, really. I did all my homework, studied and was prepared… I find this teacher to be extremely fair in the classroom, but I lost points almost exclusively in essay questions that I thought I’d given good answers to. I don’t think she dislikes me, and I don’t think she thinks of me as a slacker. Was I glib and overconfident? A little big for my britches in light of my actual experience in the corporate world, my stint selling data networks for AT&T? Who knows? And who cares. You do your best and then you let go. The moment you turn that test in, you’re all done. You’re handing things over to fate.

I won’t get my final semester grades for awhile, and for the first time I wonder how I did in my classes! Surely an A in chorus, pretty much a pass/fail class. Perhaps a B in Leading Change, since I didn’t do as well on tests as I had thought I would. And in my poli sci class, I honestly don’t know. 25% of our grade was based on class participation, and, also perhaps for the first time, I don’t think I said a damn thing in class all semester. Which is totally unlike me; I don’t need a class participation grade as an excuse to use my big mouth. I may be an introvert, but I am that rare introvert who has very little fear of public speaking, and is naturally good at it. I have no fear of asking questions and dearly love to discuss things. But my poli sci class — Globalization and Its Critics with the excellent Subramaniam — was just so completely beyond my ken.

All semester I felt like a big satellite dish, taking it all in. I had too much listening to do to say a thing. I had nothing to contribute but my attention. And that I gave a lot of.

Teachers just don’t know how powerful their influence is sometimes. And it’s hard to tell them without fearing you sound like a kiss-ass, or a groupie, or a crush-drunk schoolgirl, or someone hoping to improve her grade with a little well-delivered flattery. How do you say I dragged myself into class one day when I was sick just because I knew you would make me laugh? How do you say The day you apologized for saying something pedestrian in class, I wanted to stand up and applaud? How do you say The way you see the big picture so powerfully gives me pause, even I who have always cultivated this same skill? How do you say Like those rare parents who remember what it is like to be a child, you are that rare teacher who seems to remember what it is like to be a student? How do you say I so appreciate and admire how you went out of your way to point out the good work that the class has done, and how impressed you are with us. I can tell that you truly meant it.

And, that great compliment from a woman of my sort, You changed my reading habits. You gave me so much to think about that I never thought about before. Do you know how rare that is, and how much that matters to someone like me?

Teachers! They just don’t know, do they.

I try to help them know. Today I nominated Dr. Patrick Bahls (his real name, poor soul), the truly magnificent instructor known in this blog as math prof, for a UNCA Distinguished Teaching Award. Patrick, I cannot thank you enough.

Jen gives this semester four and a half out of five stars.

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