One of the key reasons I wanted to become a teacher was so that I could spot those sets of eyes who light up with knowledge. To see those students who “get it” and get excited with new awareness – what Oprah might call an “Aha” moment. I love those moments.
This first semester of teaching at the community college level has had its definite ups and downs. In the first days, I wondered if I had done the right thing. Who ever knows the answer to that life question? The learning curve has been bouncy – and some days I’ve felt that I was bounced right off of the ride. Usually that has happened on the less prepared days, but sometimes it is a result of the personality of the class. But then I dusted myself off, recognized that when I don’t feel fully prepared, I am going to feel very bad after class, and I kept on pushing to find that fit of preparation that would work for me. That has been as much of the learning curve as anything else I have done.
Yesterday, I received one of those “moments”. A student who has shown lots of promise was in class. A young man who is not exactly traditional – a little older and more mature than the average “right out of high school” student. Perhaps ex-military. He had indicated the first day of class that he was headed to law school… eventually. After class yesterday, I asked him what his goals and plans were. He said that his plans had changed, and now he wanted to teach history. He actually said, “I want to help.” I was so moved that I felt the blood in my veins rush. When I regained my composure, I assured him that I was available for letters of recommendations, and if he was headed to my alma mater (which he said he was), to let me know, and I will help as much as I can. This is my first semester teaching. I feel as if I’ve found my own little piece of heaven.
This is what it is all about for me. Introducing history that engages and encourages and informs. And finding those students who get it, who grab it, who run with it. This is the excitement of teaching for me.
In many ways, I am grateful that I am doing this at an older age. Had I begun the academic career as a young 20-something, I think I may have ended up being that burned out career driven academic who is pursuing her own publications with little concern about the students. I want to inspire. I want to see others find that niche of living that will make their lives worth something to them. The face-to-face responses of students – be they few and far between – who love the opportunity to learn is an experience I struggle to describe. I am purely delighted.