Although I didn’t think about the consequences at the time, overscheduling my summer has led to a dreary fall. I started out tired, which has left me ill-prepared for the rush that characterizes every October. I’ve dragged my way through the things I had to do, and being as tired as I am I’ve found myself focusing more on the negative than usual. The students who don’t listen, the colleagues who complain, the mini crises that populate every week, and especially the Academic Integrity cases have left me feeling drained.

So I was in for a surprise when I started talking with my mother about the students in my accelerated Python class yesterday. I’ve had some great classes before, including one who inspired me to write a thank-you note, but I hadn’t consciously thought about this group much this quarter. I had certainly recognized that they are bright, which is hard to miss when seven students attain perfect scores on the (not easy) midterm exam. But as I described them to my mother, I started to realize how extraordinary they are, and for more than their intelligence. I have nearly perfect attendance every day, and most of them show up with laptops. But I never noticed that they’re distracted by their computers. I can’t remember a single class in my entire 20-year career who has made eye contact so frequently and so consistently as they do. They’re engaged and interested, and perhaps most strikingly, excited by the material. We’re moving more slowly than previous sections, but it’s not because they couldn’t go faster. They just have too many questions to ask, and it means that we spend more time discussing the material in depth. Just thinking about them energizes me, which is precisely what happened during my conversation last night.

At that point I felt a bit like the person who walks past something beautiful every day but fails to notice it because her mind is elsewhere. I couldn’t believe that I had spent the entire quarter standing in front of a gift like that class without seeing what was in front of me. Now that I’ve finally opened my eyes I plan to appreciate every day I have left with them.