A few years ago, a student of mine I’ll call Del graduated. He took several courses from me. In fact, he took a couple of them multiple times, if you know what I mean. Still, Del was a good guy, and I got a bit of a kick of his informality with me. He’d say stuff like, “Hey Doc, do you have a minute, or were you about to get your walk on?” He was funny and pleasant in class, but he had a knack for flaking out at the end of the semester.
Eventually, we talked about depression (I’m careful not to try to diagnose someone, but he clearly wasn’t right), which I suspected from his lack of effort late in the semesters, he got some help, and he did graduate. I was happy for him, and now he’s a detective with the police department. I’ll bump into him from time to time and enjoy catching up. Good guy, Del.
One time, he asked me, “Doc, do you always have a student like me?” I asked what he meant, and he said that he meant a student who was a pain in the butt. I told him, honestly, that he was never a pain in the butt, and I explained why. As I told him, he never tried to blame me for his problems. If he struggled, he knew I was there to help, but he had to take initiative. He never brought a bad attitude to class to infect other students, and he was always pleasant with me. So I was serious when I told him that he was the least of my problems, and I was glad to have him, and I was proud of him for graduating.
Well, last month as we were on our way to a Hornets game, we stopped into Slice for some dinner and bumped into Del. He was eating there with some colleagues, we caught up for a few minutes, and went back to our dinner. Comes time for the bill, our server told us that it’d already been paid. I was really surprised, and that kind of gesture makes me tear up.
I bumped into him a week ago and thanked him and told him how unnecessary it was. He told me how important what I’m doing was and that I deserved it. When you know you’ll be making enemies of some of your students when exams and papers start coming due, that kind of thing can keep you going.
So thanks again, Del, and what you’re doing is pretty damned important too.