Teaching is full of surprises, and, frankly, a lot of them are bad. But this morning, I wanted to talk about the good surprises: the quiet student who knocks a recitation out of the park, the lazy-looking kid who turns out to have a brain, or just the moment when one student actually thinks with you rather than having you cram ideas into a vacant space.
It's so easy to be frustrated by the bad surprises, and so easy to forget the good ones. But I've had a couple of good ones already this semester. The first one happened when I assigned a peer editing session. Sure, half the class just basically went through the motions and did their thing as quickly as possible. But the other half took their time and really worked to help each other, to the point where one group actually stayed after class to finish up.
Another small, simple surprise came when two of my students emailed me to ask where the homework that I had (embarrassingly) forgotten to post was. It would have been easy for them to keep their heads down and hope to avoid homework--but they didn't.
So this is my thank you to those students who surprise me in the best way possible. You make teaching bearable.