David Robbins on teaching Honors

“I feel a real responsibility because of the name on the door; it reads 'Honors.'”

"Honors College students are monolithically excellent. It sounds unusual, but that’s what it is. I’m not capable of teaching someone who’s not fully engaged and really, really smart. Each time I meet a new class of Honors students, I get a room full of young minds on a launching pad — all I have to do is light a fuse. I don’t have to motivate them; they walk in with a real desire to be there and participate, a real eagerness to learn. They’re high-octane for sure, but no attitude at all; just a natural ability to put away their egos and get to it.

 "There isn’t one kind of diversity in my classes — my room includes different races and ethnicities, every kind of gender variation, and countless majors and career tracks. I get cinema majors, dance majors, science majors … they’re all over the place. The only uniformity is commitment. They’re not passive learners – one example of this is that recently, a few of my students asked to continue their study of creative writing with me outside of class, on their own; they didn't get credits and I didn't get paid. It's this kind of dedication to learning that so impresses me about Honors students, and it’s what I try my best to mirror and return to them.

"It even goes way beyond school, like when one of my former students offered to accompany me on a trip to Vietnam to help me do research for one of my novels. We rode motorcycles from Saigon to Hanoi and back, under sometimes trying conditions; he came along just so I could do my work safely and with a companion. That’s the kind of student I get in Honors College.

"For every student who sits in my classroom, I want this to be their defining experience. One of my proudest possessions is a box full of notes from them saying that it was. That’s where I set my bar."