Barometer Students

Do you have them? They don’t show up every semester, so consider yourself fortunate if you get one, and powerball-level lucky to get two or more in a class. These are the students whose faces are an honest reflection of how well you have explained something. If you are less than clear, an eyebrow might go up, or a head might tilt just a bit. Another student might be nodding in agreement, but frankly, always nods in agreement, even if you are presenting the old, wrong, out-of-date view you are about to demolish.

But the barometer student is skeptical. Listens. Processes. Understands. And (most helpful to you) it’s written on her or his face.

Just spoke with one of three such students this semester (lucky me!), who I would have sworn was lukewarm about this class. I could not have been more wrong (I blame cultural differences; this student was from overseas). Once again, I am a happy Cuttlefish. And a sad Cuttlefish, because this particular barometer (indeed, two out of three of this semester’s barometers) is graduating, and the odds are we will never meet again.

I suppose by this time in my career I should be accustomed to never seeing people again after becoming invested in their lives. Maybe I am, and the sadness is not strange, but simply an appropriate reaction to the situation. “Accustomed” does not mean “immune”.


  1. tynk says

    I had a poly sci prof in college, it was his first, last, and only class he taught, that I know of. He had taken a job with the state congress after he took the teaching post.

    There was a day that I missed class due to personal reasons, it was a once a week class. The next time I showed up, he stopped me before class and asked what happened the week prior. I said I had something I had to take care of. He then told me that he missed me in class because I helped him. When something didn’t seem quite right I would ask. When I disagreed I would mention. He missed me because, as he said, I helped the other students think. I raised questions or concerns and it created discussion amongst the students. Sometimes it was heated, sometimes it was just someone taking the devils advocate position.

    I had not noticed, but I will not forget him.

    My previous poly sci class, that I dropped, had the opposite type of professor. I pointed out something he said that was wrong. He told me he was the prof and he was right. The next class I brought in the book that he assigned and showed him where he was wrong. His answer was, “I write the tests, I am always right.”

  2. Phledge says

    Instructors like you have always meant the most to me. If you’re willing to throw yourself into a relationship with me as a student, thinking that it will probably be brief and irrelevant in the larger scale of things, I will always come back and remind you of what an awesome accomplishment your instruction was. There have been high-school science teachers that I visited after medical school, to tell them they made a difference.

    So, I dunno, keep at it? :)

  3. Aliasalpha says

    I think I’ve been one of those students before, also one of the ones who never stops asking questions, framing things in analogies when its clear noone else is getting the point and vehemently arguing when someone is wrong. Needless to say opinion on me was rather polarised

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