I’ve written many times in this blog on my changing relationship with my students. The posts are too numerous to mention here, but I think a good summary is that I’ve become more relaxed with students. That has lots of positive benefits, and it’s made me appreciate how our interactions have evolved.
One thing I only realized this academic year is that my changing interactions with students has resulted in (some of) them understanding me better. For example, this past quarter some of my former students came to an event for our learning community, both to serve as mentors and to advertise an organization with which they are involved. After the event they were planning on attending a petting zoo at the Lincoln Park campus, and in an email exchange I later asked one of them about the petting zoo. He sent me the picture below:
It made me so happy that he sent the picture, because it gave me a much better sense of how much fun they had. Plus, I think he knows how crazy I am for animals, which I believe is partially why he shared it.
In another example, a former student of mine began babysitting my daughter a while ago. She is a sweetheart, and every year she gets us something for Christmas. This year she gave us two gifts that show me how well she knows us:
We adore cats, and one of my favorite treats of all time are dark chocolate liquor bottles. So her gift clearly hit the mark.
I don’t think it’s necessary that students know me. Frankly, students can be completely clueless about who I am as a person, as the majority of them are, and still learn effectively in my classes. But that I have a few students who so clearly know me well makes me happy.