Teaching is a gift, and I have been reading about others who share gifts with us in a number of places. For example, in Kisses from Katie, the author says, “People who want to make a difference . . . don’t teach grand lessons that suddenly enlighten entire communities; they teach small lessons that can bring incremental improvement to one man or woman, boy or girl. They don’t do anything to call attention to themselves, they simply pay attention to the everyday needs of others, even if it’s only one person. (Davis, XI) Katie, thank you for your dedication of a lifetime to being a “parent” to homeless children in Uganda as a young college-aged woman and challenging us all.
In “Mushrooms” by Sylvia Plath, we read the simplistic poem of a mushroom and learn the deeper metaphor of heaving, widening, and shoving through. Each of us has the capacity to make a positive change in the little spaces in which we have meaning and influence. I was encouraging my reading class this week that regardless of politics or station in life, each of us can continue being the best person we can be to make a difference in our corner of the world. Students liked that. They got it. Poetry still holds value when we take the time to stop and listen. Thanks, class, for reinforcing my belief!
Another student got me to stop and listen today. He said that in reading through his OnCourse book and practicing by listening to his girlfriend, he is learning that listening doesn’t just mean listening so we can make a response, but so we can understand. Wise young man! He is truly listening and getting the message. And I stopped and listened to him, an online student, and gained a deeper understanding as well. Thank you.
And then Tuesday evening we were given the gift of sharing what we do on the Verde Campus with our community. At least 200 community members came to the campus and visited with faculty and staff both from our campus as well as from Prescott who drove over to support the effort. James fired up the grills for the first time, and we had a great barbecue. Dennis and his band played joyful tunes, Roxanne danced the Zumba, and everyone had a great time. Thanks!
My enrollment even went up overnight. Not in a huge way, but I will gladly take any enrollment increase. One of the best moments of the evening was when an online student came by my station. I told her what I taught at the college, and she asked me my name. She told me that I had been her STU110 teacher and that she really learned so much about careers in my class. Priceless! It is such a gift to meet my online students and to have that moment any day. Thank you, YC for sharing this opportunity!
Another gift I received last week was The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker J. Palmer. This book was a gift for writing a 9x9x25 blog. So far I am loving this author’s foundation. He says, “When my students and I discover uncharted territory to explore, when the pathway out of a thicket opens up before us, when our experience is illuminated by the lightning-life of the mind–then teaching is the finest work I know.” (1)
Palmer goes on to share the difficult days stand in contrast and create that powerless sense inside us. How can it be that teachers can both be filled with immeasurable joy at one time and then suffer through bad times? According to Palmer, there are three sources: 1) our subject area is complex, and we can never fully know it, 2) our students are complex and difficult to respond to wisely, and 3) we ourselves are complex. We must fully know ourselves. When we don’t know ourselves, we reflect flawed images of ourselves through the content we teach (2-3). I am now hooked, so I must finish reading the book. Thank you, Thatcher!
Yes, gifts come in many different forms throughout the year. Family, friends, literature, students, co-workers, good health, even material items, the least of all our blessings bless us. As we prepare to go home for a few days next week, let’s leave the cares and frustrations behind. Get to know yourself, your loved ones, and come back invigorated to face the days ahead. Yes, we still have two more weeks of Fall semester as well as grading, Winter Institute, and other duties as assigned.
Blessings to you all!
Privileged to be the final baton for 9x9x25 2016.