January 20, 2010
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I was reminded today not to make hasty judgements about people, and to have a little more faith in myself.
I taught today (MUCH better, very fun … Stella’s got her groove back). One student sat at the front-and-centre bench, working alone and diligently on the assigned tasks. He asked frequent, detailed questions. They were thorough, thoughtful questions, but I interpreted his curt and affectless demeanour as dismissive and irritated – with me? With my replies? I wasn’t sure which it was, but I became increasingly unnerved with each exchange, and in short order I was convinced he thought I was a complete moron.
Imagine my surprise, then, when he lingered after class to talk to me. Not about the lab content, but about the fact that he was a brand-new undergrad and was frustrated by his efforts to express himself eloquently in a language that was not his mother tongue. He wanted to tell me about his academic interests, and find out what opportunities there were for undergrads to do field work: “real” science. He asked my about my Master’s research. He wanted to know about the types of employment he might be able to pursue, how to get research funding, and how to develop helpful relationships with professors.
These are not questions you ask of someone you think is a moron.
His terse speech was actually a reflection of his struggle to communicate the way he wanted to (not that I had thought for a moment that he was having difficulty, he was very well-spoken).
Long story short, I allowed my own insecurities to cloud my perception of one of my students; a young man who turned out to be very self-aware, intelligent and keen. And who most certainly did not think I was a moron.
This was an important lesson. I’m glad it was taught to me this early in the process.