I am a healthy representation of the Motor City ethos. I drive–on a good day–an hour each way, to and from campus. On a bad day, well. Let’s make it an even 4-5 hours round trip.
I spend a depressingly large amount of time in my car, going anywhere from 7 to 75 mph.
Sometimes, I use all the worst words in my vocabulary. All of them.
This morning was, I would say, an average commute. It took me 1 hr. and 15 min. I sat through the usual congestion, listening to music and thinking about my day, which began today with teaching. I knew that we had to pick up a group activity where we had left off on Friday. I was thinking about how to shimmy the rest of my class plans around to account for this, when my mind drifted over a student comment from the beginning of Friday’s class. What the comment was is not important. What is important, is the familiar tension at the back of my neck, whenever “the one” student makes himself or herself known.
Every class has “the one,” or sometimes multiple ones. These are the students that say things–sometimes germane to the class plan, but often not. They are the students with NO TROUBLE talking loud enough for all to hear. The students that get right up your nose. They are difficult.
In my car this morning, I thought over how I had reacted to my student’s comment: pretty typically. It caught me off guard, and I tried to take it in stride. But, I felt I came off as awkward, and worse, that the student had “caught” me. With a sigh, I had to admit that I had not handled the situation with the aplumb I had wished for. And, I reflected that even though this was so, I had a fresh opportunity laid out for me this day. Hopefully, this new opportunity would find me revising my attitude toward this student. Simply being cheeky and extroverted shouldn’t be grounds for me to not like a student. It should be a chance–one among many that I get every day–to teach.
Class today went really well. Students worked diligently to finish with their groups. “The One” student asked me a couple of off-topic questions, sure. But I didn’t let them knock me off my mental game. As I get my students ready for the first project, I am trying to help them synthesize all the ground we’ve covered in these first few weeks. I have lots of fodder for meditation as I drive home. Hopefully, it will take me less than 2 hours.