Reflections on what my students value.
This week I began teaching over 350 students, and the various duties associated with that have taken up most of my usual blogging time. But one element of that beginning has inspired me to find some extra time to create this post.
In each of my classes I began by asking the students to respond to the prompt “Please write a paragraph about your personal values.” I haven’t read all of their responses yet, but the overall feel is impressive.
The first thing that impressed me is that in an average of six minutes the students wrote quite well. I don’t know if I could articulate my values without advance warning on command. Most, if not all, of the things they mentioned are things I also consider worth valuing, and many of the students wrote about those values compellingly.
The next thing that I noticed was how different the replies were. A few appeared to be trying to give the answer they thought I wanted, but if I quoted more than a few words from any of the rest it would uniquely identify one student. The scope also varied widely. Some emphasized absolute morality and other emphasized socially-defined mores. Some focused on relationships, or opportunities, or compassion, or self-image.
There were also some common threads I did not expect. A large number of students listed some form of “respect” in their answer. I suppose I do value respect, both giving and receiving it, but I never noticed I valued it before; I suppose it has been uniform enough in my life to pass unnoticed by myself.
I could go on, but I don’t really have a direction to this post. Reading through the values was a pleasant surprise, and I wanted to share that pleasure with my readers.