It’s that time of year when I ask every morning when I wake up, and even throughout the day, “what day is it?” I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week! When did that happen? Didn’t the semester just begin? But then I put my head down and keep grading.
Last Sunday I was grading essays and resenting having to grade during ANOTHER weekend. I lamented about the bad grammar and incoherent thoughts displayed across the computer screen. And once again I asked myself why I put myself through this torture year after year and I wondered when the semester would end.
And then Monday came.
The head of Admissions was giving a tour with a tall, young man who looked familiar. He was a candidate for a job in the Admissions office, and he had been a student of mine a few years ago. In three weeks he will graduate from the university with a Bachelor’s degree.
Every year, I attend graduation and watch students walk across the stage. The next semester, a new batch comes in, and the process begins again. Rarely, do I get to see what becomes of those graduates. I don’t know where they go. I don’t know what lessons they take with them.
I do know what lessons they leave behind, though, and this young man left several with me. His writing was good–of course, he had his share of errors–but he did pretty well. In class, he kept me on my toes, though. He came prepared and knew the answers to the questions I asked, and he challenged me with questions of his own that I had not anticipated. I over-prepared my lessons with him in mind. His curiosity and his critical questions made me a better teacher.
So, on Monday, just outside of my office, this young man…a new college graduate…seemed pleased to see me–his old teacher. He shook my hand and smiled as he left. My face hurt from smiling, and I had to retreat to my office.
I retreated to my office–not because my lunch awaited me, but because I felt tears behind my eyes. Pride in this student burned in me and overflowed. These strong emotions stunned me…but they also reminded me why I’m here.
This student, and the many like him, is why I torture myself every semester…why I spend hours commenting on essays…why I change my teaching methods, searching for something better year after year. It’s for them…not for me.
And so, not really knowing what day this is, but knowing I will meet my class tomorrow, I must stop writing and go grade those papers and over-prepare my lesson.