Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bright and Busy

Last night I had a good chat with a student...

Mr. X is a very recently returned Iraq vet. He's in the BNState National Guard, so he has on-going obligations.

Mr. X, at the beginning of the semester said, "Coming home is hard. Over there I had 9 guys with me at all times. The officers told us what to do and we figured out how to do it. If I had a problem, there were 9 other guys there to help me out." He'd been home for a month or so... maybe a little bit more.

Early in the class, he struggled-- a lot. I could see him struggle and he expressed his frustration in class. Then, he started missing classes and missed at least a couple of quizzes. He told me he had a new job and they were messing with his schedule.

I was sure he'd drop. He was headed down the path many logic students take -- miss some classes, get behind, don't work to catch-up, get more frustrated, avoid classes and eventually realize it is hopeless and withdraw.

A big part of what students learn in my logic class is how to be college students. The class moves pretty quickly, I don't grade homework and everything could be 'on the test'. At the end of the class, your grade depends on how well you can do the required symbolic manipulation.

They learn that I mean it when I say they have to do the homework and come to class, or they'll be sorry. Frankly, I don't care if they do the homework before or after class -- but they need to do it. They figure out that part too --

Mr. X surprised me last week -- with an excellent quiz score.

He stopped by my office last night before his night class. He told me he'd decided he was just going to do it -- his job is doing overnight security at a big-box store. He's the guy the employees leave there overnight -- in his words, "all night, it was just me, the radio and my logic book. I just stared at it until I go it."... yep. That's the case.

He then told me that this is the first college class he's had problems with but stuck to. He also told me his grandmother called him at work last week and was very proud to hear he was busy studying logic.

After his quiz, and after class on Thursday he asked me questions from the NEXT section of problems... and, he was figuring them out, on his own.

My logic syllabus is designed so that students like Mr. X can, if they work hard, figure it out and get a good grade. Often, they don't do it -- they haven't figured out how to do hard intellectual work and/or they don't have the time to do it. Thank goodness for Mr. X's job, which gives him the time to struggle with the material.

Now I have two students in that section to root for -- Mr. X and the student who told me a B in logic would earn her a graduation trip to Italy.

No comments: