outing high achievers
i always try to inform students when they do exceptional work in my classes. a few years ago, i'd publicly out them in class as high-achievers. this was exhilirating but risky. though most said it felt great and helped cement their identity as an academic or sociologist, one said it felt awful to be identified as the top-scorer in a stats class. so i've been quietly emailing top students lately, just to show them that somebody noticed how they went above and beyond "A" work.
of the 80 students in my deviance class last semester, 3 stood out as exceptional. i won't out them online, but they include a minnversity football player who aspires to work in the state department, a psychology major interested in law school, and a native minneapolitan who seems (to me) destined for grad study in soc or crim. i could go on to name many more outstanding students, but it isn't as much fun without blogging their names and faces.
i think most academics have some story about a professor pulling them aside as an undergrad to say that they write beautifully or that they were really, really, smart or that if they didn't go to graduate school it would be a crime. these sorts of experiences were likely turning points for me and for many of my colleagues. in the rush to finish the semester's grading, i try to make time to pass such sentiments along. i don't usually push hard for grad school, but i want to at least present our top undergrads with the option. in the absence of such you've-got-the-goods, kid encouragement, how many of us would have seen the possibility?