Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Being a Professor -

I love teaching. I never thought I would be a college professor. I wanted to be a city planner, an arts council director, an event coordinator. Well, really, I wanted to be a chaplain, but that was my last post.
When I received the call asking me if I would teach a folklore class at Utah Valley University I was flattered and very scared.
I'm an introvert - and introverts don't like talking in front of groups of people - but mostly I was afraid of talking in front of people I knew, not strangers, so I said "yes." And I began teaching. And I realized the classroom was the perfect place for an introvert - because the material was what was onstage, I was just presenting the star - and I could take backseat to the subject.
I've honed my skills over the years, even picking up a World Civilization course for several years, and teaching writing for the past 10 years.
This has worked, for years and years (12), and I have loved teaching. I come home exhausted, from performing, but sharing with my students has been a highlight of my life.
Gaining knowledge has been a love of mine - I'm a firm believer that the continual pursuit of knowledge is part of my mission. Teaching has been about learning - not just course material, but learning about life, through my students. I've learned what's important to them, what's not, what they worry about, their strengths, their weaknesses, personalities, learning styles, relevant topics of conversation, language (dank), and I have lots of faith in the younger generations - my students are good people, and I trust them.
And over the years many students, after leaving the classroom, after the semester's over, have become friends.
Noelle - Once visited Scott and me - roller skating to our home in a hot-pink bikini. Noelle and I visited yesterday - she is still learning, experimenting, pushing the edge, and engaged in life.
Cortney, Jayson, Nick - Jayson, a former student, walking his younger brother, Cortney, down the hall the first day of the semester, and turning him over to me. Nick, Cortney's husband. Nick (my cancer journey photographer) and Cortney are "mine," and I am so proud of them.
Joey - A boy from the South who stole my heart. He pushes the envelope in every feasible way. He was my personal renovator for a season, without complaint. I love him. He makes me smile.
Jon and Natalie - Jon taking classes first, then Natalie, and then packing and unpacking boxes for me, cooking dinner, making chocolates, giving blessings, and making awesome jewelry. Natalie sat in the back of the classroom, and now she's finishing her MA in art history. Beautiful people.
Andy - Too smart, too beautiful, too, too, too. And we connected over philosophical matters. And he wrote for me, and I've written for him, and we share.
Taylor and Jeff - similar to Jayson and Cortney; one brother introducing the other to college and classes. And these two are so similar in looks and voices, that I've had to catch myself to not call them each other. Taylor just finished painting my house - and we had fantastic conversations. Jeff - I'm glad he's not off to graduate school with his brother. I get to keep him a little longer.
And these are only a few, along with Danielle, Sharee, Clint, and my own kids, and children of friends, and neighbors. Kristee, Kennadi, Hailey, Natalia, Sage, Jerrilyn, Matt, Enoch - folks where I'm really vulnerable, yet I am confident - I am my best when I am authentic, and that is a good place to be, as a teacher, most of the time.
My biggest deepest concern is this - when the semester is over, will they be better people than when the semester began. My biggest prayer is that as well. I also pray that what I've learned from them will not fade over time. I want to take them all home. Give them a key to the house. Tell them a plate's always at the table for them. Yet . . . good-bye's are part of all of us growing. Although I may forget a name, I never forget their faces, the impact they have on me - do they know how powerful of an influence they are on me?
I'm constantly reminded of this: "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care." The road goes both ways, both ways.

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