Everyone one of them has a story but not many stop to think about the role that the "teacher" plays in these stories.
I firmly believe that throughout our lives we encounter friends and acquaintances; co-workers and colleagues; coaches and mentors; instructors and teachers. Some of us aspired to actually become teachers, some of us ended up being instructors. Many of us aspired to be something all-together different yet we ended up "teaching."
The difference to me is that many can be an instructor - you have a knowledge you can share with others and help them make that knowledge their own. There are fewer people who can actually "teach" and by that I mean make a lasting impression on an individual and actually help them learn how to engage knowledge; how to tease it out of text books, and peers in their classes; people they work with; and yes, faculty members.
With this passing semester I have had it brought to my attention by several of my students that I was the first faculty member they encounters several years ago when they started (or restarted) their academic adventures. They said it was appropriate that I was also the last "teacher" they encountered on their journey at Granite State College.
As I stopped to reflect on the number of people who have crossed my path as a faculty member, or even as a "corporate trainer" I started to wonder how many of these people I had actually been able to "reach." Not just had them in my class, but left them with something tangible that will stay with them for their lifetime. It isn't a degree, it isn't a class, it isn't a textbook. It's a desire to not "unlearn" the lessons they have internalized and now see their own worlds as something different than it was last semester, last year or will be next semester or next year.
Adult education services and adult accelerated degree programs are sometimes viewed as simply about coming to evening or weekend intensive classes and getting through them while balancing life, family, work, and the occasional quiet moment for the harried student. We forget simply that we (faculty and students alike) share a brief moment of discovery and either we mark that discovery or we eventually lose it.
I've had students come to me and thank me for helping them gain a new perspective about their careers. They've given me a hard time about making their work environment a terrible place because that can't go back to accepting things as they are, things they know can and should be changed, and in some cases, things THEY can and should change to make their work environment more effective. Some of my students have thanked me for helping me get them re-engaged in their work or careers; some have thanked me for helping them make the choice to pursue something different, something closer to their heart and soul. Some have cursed me for long writing assignments that are akin to holding up a mirror and being asked to tell the truth about what you see. Sometimes knowledge, or the responsibility that comes along with it, can be overwhelming. It is our job, as faculty to work with you, the adult learner, to challenge your thinking...and it is your job as students, to challenge our thinking so together, when you graduate, you and the faculty you leave behind, can continue to make your make in the classroom as others follow in your footsteps.
I'd like to close this piece with two things:
First, a thank-you to the students that have honored me with their presence in my classrooms over the past 6+ years. You have taught me lessons that I will never forget and I will share them with others as long as there are new faces hungry for ideas walking through the doors at the college.
Second, for the students who have yet to walk into my classroom. You have big shoes to fill, ones left behind by other students who one walked into their first class. Bring every part of you to every class in which you enroll and I can guarantee that you will have the time of your life....learning lessons that will never leave you behind!