Thanks, Dr. Cheng

Dear Dr. Cheng,

I confess that in the first months of being a student in your Alpha class*, I was not fond of you or your class. I had gotten by with BSing on assignments for years and was irritated that you were not offering up A’s or at least high B’s for my writing efforts. Or reading efforts, for that matter.

I still remember the paper over Locke and Hobbes. You said I had to redo it, it did not meet your standards. I took it back to my dorm room begrudgingly and laid all the work out on the floor. I got out my highlighters, orange and green as I vividly recall, and I ACTUALLY READ the reading assignment that led up to the essay-admittedly for the first time.

Turns out, I actually thought it was interesting. I carefully color coded my highlighted notes and added notes and thoughts of my own. Then I proceeded to jot down a rough and scattered looking outline with arrows drawn all over the place. An outsider would have surely suspected it to be the gibberish of a mad woman, but I persisted.

I spent hours agonizing over the organization and (I now know the word!) synthesis of our class resources and how to word each piece. Here’s the kicker, Dr. Cheng: no one had ever asked me to do that before.

I had taken four years of honors English courses in high school and invitation only advanced English in junior high. I had always done well at throwing together papers for classes in about thirty minutes and generally getting A’s. These A’s meant nothing to me, of course. Just a letter. Just a hoop. But when I received an A on THAT paper over Locke and Hobbes, I was truly proud.

Something clicked for me that day, and you saw it. From that point on, I remember you would call on me to hear if I had any insights. “What do you think, Candace?” and while embarrassed by the attention, I was honored.

I don’t know where you are today, but I want to let you know how much I appreciate that you offered me that moment and for never catering to our complaints. I truly believe you altered the course of my future by demanding that I apply myself to my writing (and reading and thinking) and it has been a strong inspiration to me in my teaching journey.

Thank you,

Candace Follis

 *an intro to college and writing 101 class rolled into one year long class at my liberal arts university – freshman year of college


2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Candace,

    What a lovely story! I could feel and see it very clearly. I teach L2 writing to HS students in Osaka, Japan, and your words encourage me to always continue to keep my expectations high


  2. Posted by cb17 on December 12, 2009 at 1:56 am

    I literally just told one of my professors “thank you” too in a similar fashion because I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at without her. (And I think a part of me hopes one day my students look back and think of me as someone who made them apply themselves to reading/writing/critically thinking as well…then again, I think that’s what we all want 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing!


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