On Tuesday and Thursday, I met with every one of my Language Practice second semester students for a mini-interview to discuss their progress in the class. There are 32 of them, so it made for long days. I started after teaching my classes for the day. I would have split it up over Wednesday also, but it was a holiday; March 15th is the anniversary of the unsuccessful revolution of 1848.
It always impresses me what I learn from these times with students, though it may be short. Each one comes in like a timid mouse, but walks out with a straight back and an air of confidence, regardless of the conference contents. All of them mention that they have never had an interview with an instructor before, unless they were really in trouble. Interviews for an entire class have never happened in their educational careers. The majority commented that this was impressive; an instructor took the time and cared enough to do this. My primary goal has never been to impress them, but to give a heads up to those that need to improve and to praise those who are doing well.
As each one sat across from me, I noticed facial features I had not become aware of when they are one large group. I was able to learn what their other major happens to be and what they hope to do with their degrees when they finish. I learned who wanted to study abroad and who never wanted to leave Hungary. I heard about personal problems and fears about university life. Some have studied or have even lived a portion of their young lives in the States and we discuss their impressions. One student with an outpouring of tears shared with me that her mother is terminally ill and only has days to live. She confided that she most likely will not be able to complete the semester as her father is in a psychiatric facility. She carries the family burdens of making arrangements. I had to stay strong to be supportive, but inside I was crying for her. From each of them, I saw a fire of motivation that is not always apparent in the classroom. For some it is a burning ember, while for others it is a roaring blaze.
After Tuesday’s conferences, I was mentally exhausted and thought Wednesday’s day off would be a chance to recharge, but I was wrong. All three of my Masters Thesis advisees sent me reams to read and correct. I hate getting behind and they have to turn in the final thesis on March 30th, so I spent Wednesday reading 60 pages of work.
Thursday was the same as Tuesday. Teach two classes and then have interviews until late in the afternoon. I had to sit in my office for an hour after the last student left, just to regain enough energy to take the bus home. It was as if my mind had been scraped to the core and then the purification process started. After it was all over, I felt renewed and richer for having the experience.