A new semester started today, and while my list of grievances with the current educational system is substantial and growing, there still are things I love about teaching. There are moments from my career that are fulfilling and sustaining, and today, I want to reflect a little on those. These are some of the things I love about teaching:
1) Seeing single moms dig down deep into themselves to find the strength, energy, and courage to improve themselves and their children’s lives.
2) Watching shy children emerge from their shells and blossom into confident young adults.
3) Contributing, however slightly, to the individual growth of people who want more for themselves.
4) Seeing the expressions people get when they have a lightbulb moment.
I could probably come up with more, but those are the big ones. My favorite moment as a teacher happened several years ago. I was teaching for a private college in a program designed for working adults, and as the teacher of the first series of classes they took, my role in the program was to prepare them for the academic rigor they would face and to a degree weed-out the weak. On the first night of class, I identified one lady who was extremely rough around the edges. She worked as a CNA in a rest home, and had lived a pretty hard life. She was backwards, unsophisticated, and crude. Her writing skills were barely functional, and I pulled her aside before the second meeting and told her that she either needed to dropout or get with a tutor. From experience, I fully expected her to give up, but she called the college the next day and made arrangements. She struggled through and earned a “C” for both Comp I and Comp II, but she made it and showed remarkable improvement. A few months after she had finished my classes, I ran into her at Wal-Mart. She was getting into the core of the program and was doing well. The real difference in her, however, was with how she carried herself. She walked with her shoulders up and her head high. There was a self-confidence that hadn’t been there before, and she behaved with much more dignity and refinement that on that first night. She was truly a stronger, better person, and while I won’t take much credit for her hard work, I’m proud that I did contribute a little to her betterment. That’s what I love about teaching.