One of the rare blessings of teaching college students is that every once in a while I get to be present at the birth of greatness, and sometimes I even get to assist. That happened recently when a student gave a presentation and then led the class in a discussion that left me beaming silently in the back of the room. "What you have is a rare gift," I told the student, "but that means you have a responsibility to develop that gift and use it to make the world a better place." (I'm allowed to say such sappy things because who else is in a position to do so?)
I'm basking in the afterglow of that class as I try to deal with some less rewarding student-centered experiences: the complaining student who tracked in a carpet of dried leaves all over my office floor; the promising student who turned in an uncharacteristically inadequate paper and then dropped off the face of the earth; the consistently tardy student who laughed and said, "I'm only five or ten minutes late most days!" Somehow, that doesn't make it better.
For anyone with a tendency to crash and burn, this is the time to do it--but this is also the time when I'm seeing some hard work pay off in improved writing, interesting research, and compelling presentations. While the crash-and-burners generally require more one-on-one attention, more grief and anguish and patience and work, the other students provide an energy boost just by walking in the room.
And then when I get that rare student who can move the class to a whole different level--it just doesn't get any better than that.