I was lucky enough to have my two final exams early last week, so I finished my winter quarter grading by the end of last weekend. I always post the scores/grades to the course management system for a least a day so that any disgruntled students can contact me before I make the grades permanent, but I didn’t hear from anyone before I submitted them. I moved onto the service and research tasks that have piled up all throughout March.

So it was a bit of a surprise when I got an email from one of my students tonight with the subject line “FINAL EXAM.” Emails like that don’t tend to have good news, but this was from a student who had gone from a failing grade on the midterm to a grade in the B range on the final exam. I didn’t expect that he could have issues with the grading. As it turns out, he didn’t. Instead he told me that he hadn’t gotten the courage to look at his final exam score until today because he was too nervous about it. He was writing to express his gratitude for the help I’d given him during the latter half of the class, and I could practically hear him shouting with happiness even without the all caps. He said he had seen that hard work really did pay off for him, and he was thrilled.

In my reply, I told him he had earned the final exam grade. And he did. He typically spent 90 minutes every Wednesday in my office, working on the assignment or studying for the exam. Most of that time was spent with each of us silently working, only broken by the occasional break for a question. At first it was a bit awkward, but given that he’d come to my office hours the first time because I was scolding him for obtaining outside help that I didn’t think was useful for him, I could hardly complain about it. Over the weeks I got used to it, and eventually came to enjoy the mostly silent study/work time. After all, I had given  him a speech about how hard work was crucial for success in computer science, and it made me happy to see him take my words to heart. And I was almost as thrilled as he was when he jumped nearly 30 percentage points from the midterm to the final exam. It’s students like him where I can make a difference as an instructor, and seeing his success is so rewarding.