I have certain expectations about this Population Spectrum class I teach. I expect that some people will be frustrated and bored by the lack of “real massage.” I expect that multiple people will need to leave in the middle of the lecture on Trauma. I expect that I will be frustrated that I don’t have enough time for the lecture on Cancer. Most of all, though, I expect to be surprised and impressed by the presentations of their final project.
They are required to find a client who has some kind of unique challenge or massage-related need, to work with that client for five sessions, and to write a paper about the experience. Every time I have taught this class, I have been impressed by the insight people show in their presentations, and about the thought they put into their work. This term, I am teaching two sections of this class, so this week, when their presentations are due, I was looking forward to a boost from their work.
The first group presented a couple of days ago. It’s not that they did a bad job, because they didn’t. And it’s not that they didn’t change and grow from the experience, because they did. At least some of them did. It’s just that their talks were so, well, unsurprising. I feel like a jerk for thinking this, and an even bigger jerk for writing it down, but I am truly baffled. This is a group that has the whole formula for surprising work. They are a close-knit group, serious about and excited by massage therapy. They listen well and ask challenging questions.
I suppose I shouldn’t be baffled. In all the “schooly” work they have done (written tests and the like,) they have been pretty lackluster. Where they come alive is when they get to do hands-on work. I have never seen a class, especially a night class, so ready and eager to do hands-on work. Even when they walk into class looking like they can barely stand, as soon as we set up massage tables, they come alive.
So, it seems, my expectations are based on a flawed understanding of this group of students. I am failing to truly see and appreciate where they excel. I am judging them based on past classes who have been inspired with this particular project. Tonight, I am their instructor for a different class, where they have a practical exam — hands-on work. I am prepared for them to come alive and blow me away.