I meet individually with every student in my classes at the beginning of the semester. In these short meetings, I try to learn what each student is hoping to do with their life and at least one other unique story about them (they worked at an orphanage over the summer, they started the University polo club, they are a bouncer at the most popular bar downtown, etc…). Most semesters I have over 100 of these meetings. At about 15 minutes each, that represents a huge chunk of my scarce time during those busy first two weeks.
But, the investment has huge returns. Meeting with the students reminds me why I love my job. Learning about their experiences, hopes, and dreams inspires me. It’s fun when these insights shatter my preconceptions. I’ll never forget when Brandon, a bearded young man who often wore cowboy boots, a hunting jacket, and bloodshot eyes from nights spent downtown said to me: “Look, I’m a redneck Republican from the South, but I understand the importance of this stuff.” Plus, students generally appreciate that a teacher wants to know more about them, which makes it more likely they will approach me later in the semester and after they graduate. This helps me maintain ties with the “real world” and know who is thinking about graduate school. I’m also pretty sure these meetings are the main reason students cut me slack when I inevitably bomb a class or two later in the semester.
Try out these individual meetings next chance you get. You can curse me when you look at your packed calendar. But once the meetings start, I think you will find yourself so engrossed in every conversation that you don’t even notice the passage of time. You’ll be tired at the end of the meetings, but also inspired and you will have laid the foundation for a great semester.