The greatest students
Evy Stein | Friday, May 15, 2020
In my time at Notre Dame, I have encountered many brilliant and dedicated students. I see them in the mornings reading over dining hall eggs, late at night working in the library and dorm study carrells and after class doing problem sets at my apartment’s kitchen table. Some of them pull all-nighters and some of them can zone in on essays for hours without looking at their phones, and it pays off. I have witnessed classmates ace exams, jump enthusiastically into heated debates, present work at academic conferences, write moving literature and excel at MCATs, GMATs and GREs. But as I consider the type of student I hope to be outside of the classroom, the people that come to mind most often have one trait in common: They are my professors.
As a student in the College of Arts and Letters for the past four years (and I am particularly indebted to the English Department and the Education, Schooling and Society faculty) I have encountered many, many incredible professors who have shown me that we never stop learning, even if we’re no longer listed as students on a roster. The excitement with which the vast majority of my professors have approached our class time has been a constant reminder that they, too, are lifelong scholars, and a given semester can impact their lives — as academics and as people — just as much as it can mold mine.
I am grateful that my professors have consistently come to class not necessarily with answers, but with questions and their own opinions about what we are learning. They have demonstrated how to listen to those around them in a discussion, and that each of our unique perspectives and academic backgrounds can enhance an argument. The best of them know how to mediate but not dominate a conversation, because they are also eager to learn from our classes.
Beyond being active listeners and learners in the classroom, my professors have pointed me to books to improve my writing, to theorists who can name and nuance my points, and to classmates who will argue with me all day long. They know when to say “let’s learn about that together” or advise me to seek advice from their peers. They read, and read, and listen, and read, because as legendary as some of them might be, none of them believe they know it all.
The last two months are further proof of the dedication Notre Dame professors have to learning, and their desire to instill the same aspirations in us. I have had professors that didn’t so much as set up a Sakai page in January discover how to make compelling virtual presentations and adapt Zoom classes every week to fit our needs. Most of my professors this semester continuously sought answers about how to teach while balancing new emotions, responsibilities, and time zones — both their own, and ours.
As the greatest students, my professors have also shown excitement for what they can learn from me. They are constantly curious about my opinion, or my current projects, or what other classes I’m taking and books I’m reading. My lack of degree (so far) and only 21 years of experience do not make them reluctant to ask, but instead, it seems, are viewed as a great opportunity to learn from someone different than themselves.
In the last four years, my professors have shown me how to be a scholar and a student for life. Their dedication to their work and their students has profoundly changed me and the class of 2020, and will forever serve as a reminder that we never stop being students.
Evy is the former Viewpoint editor and will be graduating from her living room in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin this weekend. She majored in English and minored in Education, Schooling and Society while on campus. This fall she will be moving to Chicago to work as an education consultant and to become an obnoxious Observer fan from afar. Her alumni email is [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.