At my university, if you are funded as a grad student you will either be a TA (Teaching Assistant) or an RA (Research Assistant). For this first year, I am a TA. My first semester I was put in front of 4 classes of 25 students each and told to go for it. It was a bit scary at first, but I can say that I honestly loved my students. I would joke and say that I had 105 children because I thought so highly of my students.
As a way to hold them accountable for weekly readings (besides tests) I required them to submit “Critical Thought Nuggets” – just little tidbits of thought they had while reading the chapters.
This is where I will put these wonderfully epic snippets of things my students wrote (or said) to me from the first semester.
“Uncle Sam sounds like the name of a really creepy male stripper.” Week 1. We were clearly off to a good start
“Did the great depression and economic low point have any influence on the constitutional convention?”
“How can American have 2 candidates that are either racist or broke the law?” You have no idea how many times I was asked that (and similar questions).
“I don’t smoke marijuana, but I think it should be legalized.”
An essay titled “Weed and States”
“Gay. Gay is a word that not only separates us from each other but causes so many arguments”
“I feel like Rosa Parks did absolutely nothing all she did was just say, “NO” and sit down.”
“If Trump were to say…’be put out of commission’ and Hillary were to go to jail…”
“During the state of the union, do they really have a ‘designated survivor’ at another location? I sure hope Sec. Kerry isn’t the designated survivor.”
“Final thought…. Rational Choice Model…Nothing about this election has been rational.”
And then some serious ones that I want to remember forever.
“At the end of our discussion last week, you ended on the topic of the fact that we don’t know how our present history is going to affect US citizens in 20 years. This thought really impacted me and the way I look at this class and our present political time period. I never thought about the fact that we don’t know how our government and society is going to change based on events happening currently. This point really made me think and this is why I really enjoy coming to your class, so thank you.”
“So I am very upset. I don’t understand how to deal with this. So I am just ignoring it all – coping is very odd for me. I just want everything to be okay about this. Like, I don’t know, this election has been hell. No one really understands how to deal with this. We are people. I know with being white and to have this privilege to not care if I wanted to, but my friends are scared out of their minds. I am afraid.”
“I hate this because now I have to watch my back every time I leave home. I have to be in fear now that my family can get hurt. My family is Mexican and citizens but we are already looked down upon. I have to much hate and anger right now. This is my country and it is failing me. I’m American but I’m not treated as such.”
“I called my mom to tell her about your class. I hated politics and thought I’d hate this class, but I love it. This is my favorite class. It’s the only class I want to come to.”
I had students who chose to share their histories, their pain, their fears, their tears – without any prompt to do so. I was unprepared for the love I’d feel for them. I was unprepared for how special each and every one of them would become to me. Yes, they say silly things. They may have poor grammar at times. We all do. But they were MY students and I am proud of them.
I will end with one thing I wrote as a 19 year old in college to show that they are not alone in saying weird things. “This idea brings back the idea of ideal versus real.” Yes, I wrote that – in a final paper. There is always hope.