The day Jenna began first grade I began my quest for higher education - Shoals Community College in Tuscumbia, Alabama. I loved learning – and I figured my time for higher education was right then and there. For thirteen years, 2-4 classes per semester, moving from SCC to UVU, to BYU, to USU, I gained a formal education, and an informal one as well. I graduated from Utah State University in May, 2003, with a Masters Degree in American Studies, my emphasis was Folklore.
I began teaching at UVU 2 years prior to receiving my Masters; there was a need for a folklore instructor, and the department knew me. I have taught every year since 2001. This means I have been in school for 20+ years, as a student or instructor.
I love school - I loved it as a young girl, and my attitude really hasn't changed. Learning, putting words to ideas and context to concepts is exhilarating. I am a student and an instructor - an accidental instructor, often learning so much more from my students than I can ever teach them. I cannot begin to even write or share how much I love my students. They have become my friends. The first day of school I walk down the hallway to my new class high-fiving myself, felicitating on my state - I am back in school, what a beautiful opportunity. For me UVU is a constant - it never changes. The campus grows, but the students, they are the same - I can walk through the LA building's hall and see 18-28 year old students carrying back packs, some dressed trendy, others in work uniforms. Some look scared, others confident, some with searching eyes, hoping for something familiar. I want to hug them all and say, "Welcome to the greatest place on earth. You will be fine, you will be pushed outside of your comfort zone, you will win. Enjoy." I savor the class conversations along with the challenge of getting the students to talk with me and each other, before the second week of school. I love watching my students squirm, question, answer, support, explain, doubt, and grow. I like seeing students in the grocery store, in Facebook, at the Farmers Market. Oh, I would not trade my 20 years in school for anything, oops - I did.
As I've been preparing for what I thought was my "next step" this fall, I emptied my plate, keeping "only" 1 of 3 classes, keeping my full-time job (that just happens to be in education), figuring I'd now have some time and room for chaplaining. I categorized what I'd keep and what I'd leave, and teaching was always on the keep list. Yet the doctors have told me I will be spending quite a bit of time at doctor's appointments, chemo treatments, and that I won't want to be exposed to students' germs, and I don't want to expose my students to an erratic schedule and to a sick me - not that there isn't growth for them in that (my ASL professor was dying of cancer during my last semester of ASL, and he taught me so much), but not with my uncertain schedule.
I dropped my folklore class. There is now a gap, that 23 year record is busted, broken, no-more. Shit, damn, hell -
I don't want this semester to be without growing, gaining knowledge, learning, associating with other enquiring minds - I have cancer, I will need to learn all I can, I will be growing, but please, get me back to a classroom, any classroom, soon.