…And Then, Something Like This Happens…

Ok, this is mostly personal, but I have to say it somewhere…

You might have noticed a lull in my productivity recently. In previous years, the entire month of April has been scorched earth, double-plus-ungood badness, so this year has been better than most. But still. (after the jump)

And then, today, three things. One–a student from last semester (and from previous classes) returns a book. I had forgotten about it, which I always do, but the book is not the important bit. She’s just about to leave, and says “I also want to thank you for being the highlight of my college years. By far.” Aw… and this was a barometer student–the kind you look to to see if you have adequately covered the topic. The kind whose eyebrow will lift if you have not dotted every I and crossed every T. The kind you think will never just accept your word for something. The kind that really and truly, skeptically, thinks.

You don’t always hear those words. Even more rarely do you hear them from the one who you were really trying to reach. Damn.

Two–another student, from three different classes. ROTC, and one of the rare students utterly unafraid to be wrong, or to be open, or to be challenged. This guy added sooooo much to the classes he was in, by asking wonderful questions without embarrassment, by offering himself up in examples few other students could have matched, by basically throwing himself headlong into his classes as he does the rest of his life. He stopped by today to invite me to his commissioning ceremony. I don’t have time for things like this. But, yeah, I am going to be there; he’s earned it.

Three–my all time favorite student. Bar none. We’re not supposed to have favorites, I suspect, but that’s a bit like saying we’re not supposed to have mitochondria–we do; get over it. This one started her cuttlefishology major in my class, and then took enough other classes from me that she literally could have declared a minor in Cuttlefish. Graduated, went out into the world, did good work… years later, came back to grad school… and by damn, asked me to be on her dissertation committee. What I am feeling right now is the academic equivalent of being a proud parent (don’t get me started on how proud I am of the Cuttlekids recently). At this precise moment, I would do this job for free.

Which is another reason to write under a pseudonym; Cuttlefish U. would take me up on that. And tomorrow morning, I will be back to being the cephalopod who still has tuition bills to pay, and not nearly the income to cover them.

Today was a very good day. I am a happy cuttlefish.

We rarely are in the position to see the impact of what we have done. So many potential causes exist–how can we know it was this class rather than any of a dozen others, or this conversation, or this argument? But sometimes we really and truly change the world. And sometimes, rarely, the world lets us know.


  1. DLC says

    Truly a touching story. No, seriously. It’s good to see when people come and say “Thanks”.

  2. says

    I am so glad to read this tonight, dear Cuttelfish! You bring a lot of joy and provoke a lot of thinking here, too. I am so happy that you have received such positive feedback and no doubt well-earned compliments from students today.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    we’re not supposed to have mitochondria

    We aren’t? When did they* pass that rule?

    *”They” being them.

  4. Thinker says

    This is so good to hear, and provokes two questions:

    1. Why is it we have such a hard time accepting compliments?

    It is so good to hear you really take in, and then savor, the wonderful feedback you were given. When getting a compliment, it is so easy for many of us to come up with all sorts of justifications why “it wasn’t really because of me” or “they’re just saying that to be nice”.

    Well yes, they’re saying it to be nice, but that is because they feel they have good reason to! We should learn to accept that feeling, take it in, wallow in it and feel proud of it! Thanks, Cuttlefish for reminding me that that ability as a good thing!

    2. Why is it we have such a hard time giving compliments?

    Given that the “cost” of saying “thank you” is so small for those saying it, and the benefit is so large for those receiving our compliments, is there any good reason for not doing it more often?

    I’m not thinking of the little courteous thank yous to someone handing us something or holding a door open — those are of course great as well — but rather the clear acknowledgements of something larger such as the examples above. It is precisely when cause and effect are a bit diffuse that there is tremendous value in distilling it down and telling someone what their efforts meant to us.

    Cuttlefish, you’ve given me a task today: to freely give praise and acknowledgement to those deserving of it.

    You are first on the list — thanks for brightening my “scorched-earth, double-plus ungood badness” spring! You help me see all the good stuff that is actually hidden in the mess!

  5. martin_z says

    Well, what a nice post. I’m just a lurker here most of the time, but I had to say “Well done!”.

  6. TheLinguist says

    Aaawww… at the end of a very long, very tiring week over here at Down Under Uni, this had me smiling. A world that has happy cuttlefish in it can’t be all bad. Enjoy.

  7. TX_secular says

    In keeping with the gratitude theme, thank you Cuttlefish for a wonderful blog. You regularly lighten my day.

  8. carpenterman says

    Cool. Very cool.
    I’ve felt the same kick (in a much smaller way) when doing children’s participation theater. Once in a while you get a kid who is just *there*; right there in the story with you. Who knows what can inspire and shape a young mind? Maybe the next Merril Streep will be saying in an interview someday, “Well, when I was about six, my parents took me to this show at the local library, and ever since…”
    Keep up the good work, Cuttlefish. There are are a lot more hungry young minds out there. Feed them healthy, well-seasoned foods, and watch them grow strong.

  9. Timid Atheist says

    It’s always a nice change to hear good things happening to those I read on a consistent basis. To know that there is some good that gets thrown in with the bad is wonderful.

    When I was in school, lo these many years ago. I made a point of telling the teachers I had that they were important to me at the end of the school year. Not always easy for a shy person. Teachers are so very important and I still think fondly of mine. So thank you for being an awesome teacher that resulted in awesome students. I’m jealous that I’ll never get first hand knowledge of how great you are.

  10. DaveD says

    It’s been years since I was a professor (adjunct, just something I did for a while), but I read this entry with a smile of recognition.

    I saw a few students post-graduation, and one of my best memories is of a student who had gone off to a job in industry. She told me that a few days prior, she’d been in a meeting, and she understood what they were talking about “because of what I’d learned in your course.”

    It’s a great feeling. She was one of my best students, too.

  11. says

    As an educator I know exactly the emotions that you are feeling. They are what make the job worthwhile. The crappy pay becomes secondary when stories like that are part of our lives. Good job Cuttlefish!

  12. Crudely Wrott says

    I am left with the impression that you had a good day, Cuttle.

    Also a good term, a good year, a good payoff on a long term investment, and a pretty fair return on your investment of time, study, care, et cetera.

    Not bad for an invertebrate. May there be more.

    I ‘spect there will be.

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