photo by Dan4th on flickr, made available by Creative Commons license

Just had a lovely conversation with some students after class about the frustration of non-credit courses and the University’s unrealistic promotion of the goal of graduating in four years.

Three young women remained behind after class today, and we talked about what it takes to become a professor, recovering from mistakes, and being patient with the process of achieving long term goals.  What excited me so much was that one of these young women has regularly expressed her frustration in class with a strongly voiced “This is stupid!”  Today she told me today she really likes this class, and she finds comfort in my stories of having failed classes and taken an embarrassing number of years to finish my undergraduate degree.

Our conversation was a real pleasure, and I realized that, at least for that particular young woman, “This is stupid” is not judgment on my lesson plan, on me as a human being or as a teacher, or anything else but “I don’t understand this and I don’t know how to figure it out and I feel stupid and I HATE THAT.”

Earlier today, during their class, they were working in groups on a narrative that included new vocabulary words.  The definition of the word this young woman had chosen was ambiguous, and the dictionary didn’t explain the usage -the word is only used to refer to ideas, not concrete objects.  So, her story needed to be re-worked.

When I explained, she started to react in her go-to frustration “This is stupid” mode, but I just made myself go to a very calm place in my head and slow w-a-y down.  I showed her in her own context examples how the word is used, then helped her revise her story to make the change.

She got the changes made before the end of the hour, we had a lovely conversation, and she walked out of the room feeling positive about her ability to learn it, do it, get it.  Good day.

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