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What was your proudest teaching moment?

I’m working on an extended piece I hope to deliver later this Spring, and the piece led me to a reflection on my own proudest teaching moments. They weren’t what I thought they would be when I went into higher ed.

I had assumed that my best moments would be either when I came up with the absolutely perfect metaphor or a devastatingly witty aside. In other words, they would be when I got my words exactly right. That was certainly how most of my graduate professors seemed to operate.

Once I started teaching, though, I figured out quickly that it wasn’t about me or my words.  

My proudest moments may not have looked spectacular from the outside, but I remember them vividly. They were times when a student surprised herself in discovering how smart she was. In one case, I remember an entire class muttering “ooooh” appreciatively after a usually-quiet student said something fabulously smart; after that, the student was off and running. In a few cases, secretly bright students started to flourish after getting permission to be smart. You’d think that would have been implied, but not for everybody.

The most fun, though, were students wrestling with Big Ideas in a serious way for the first time. When an idea made it through the protective layer of cynicism and set the wheels turning, you could actually see it in their facial expressions. That may reflect the political theory training, or it may be at the root of it.  

Wise and worldly readers, especially those of you who teach, what was your proudest teaching moment?

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