Testing

It wasn’t the kind of test you’d expect to see at the end of the semester, and it brought one student to tears — the good kind.

Analysa Gonzales, a student at Texas A&M University, shared a photo of the health exam given by her professor, Meg Patterson.

“I cried when I saw what was written on exam,” Gonzales wrote on Twitter. “There needs to be more professors like this in the world.”

What was it that made the college student cry? Instead of the ordinary review of semester materials, Patterson had taken a different route. She’d made the test about gratitude and mental health.

In the introduction to the exam, Patterson acknowledged that they’d “reached a super stressful point in the semester.” She went on to cite scientific evidence that practicing gratitude improves one’s health and then explained:

I want to give you that opportunity right now. Yes it’s corny, but yes it will be good for you. So let’s do it.

The first section of the exam gave students the chance to examine what they are thankful for. The first question asked students to list three people they are thankful for and to explain why. Then, they were asked to provide their initials to signify their commitment to contact one of those people (if only by text) and “let them know they make you and your world better.”

The next two questions asked students to discuss “your favorite thing about yourself” and “a compliment about yourself that is not appearance related.” Examples of such compliments were things like, “you light up a room,” “your work ethic is inspiring,” and, “you cook a mean lasagna.”

Then, students were asked to initial as an acknowledgment of their commitment “to reminding yourself of all the good within you.”

Next was a question about the highlight of the semester and how the student has grown. This was followed by another set of initials, which committed the student to “remembering that even though the end of the semester gets chaotic and life gets stressful, you are walking away a stronger person.”

The second part of the exam asked for useful feedback and constructive criticism about the class and the semester. Then came the third part — the “final note.”

In the last portion, Patterson thanked her students, telling them that they were “the highlight of my semester.” She wrote about what she hoped they learned from her class and that it wasn’t about facts or statistics:

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this class, it’s this: be good to people because everyone is doing their best given the circumstances. Health as a field can be really judgmental and unkind, but as you learned in this class, so much goes into what happens in the day-to-day of someone’s life. Your goodness will go much further than your judgment, and your goodness will be what makes the world a better place.

Finally, the professor offered some “food for thought” for her students as they go through college and start out in life:

The actual “doing” of life can be messy and nonlinear and imperfect. Most of your adult life will not include a study guide and will not be as simple as answering questions on a test. […] So take a minute, breathe, and regroup when things don’t go according to plan or don’t follow a perfect formula. Find the resilience and grit within you to accomplish your goals, even when they’re difficult. You will be a better and more capable human because of it!

After reminding students that she’s always available if they want to reach out, Patterson concluded the exam with one last place for students to initial, indicating they’d read “my heartfelt note.”

When Gonzales shared the exam on Twitter, many people wrote to say how touched they were by the professor and her exam. Quite a few wished they’d had a teacher like Patterson in college.

However, there were a few critics who felt that this wasn’t a proper way to set an exam.

Patterson reshared her student’s post on Instagram, and several people responded, explaining that this test is why she is (or was) their favorite teacher. As one commenter wrote:

“What a gift you are to these students and all who know you. Way to follow your values and share this with your students. Proud of the good work you are doing to make the world better.”

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College Professor Surprises Students With Exam That Makes Them Think About Why They’re Thankful

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