So, I began writing this newsletter back in September…yeah, I know…the last two semesters hit with a reckless abandon. I’m still struggling to reconcile how we’ve already reached April and the end of yet another semester. I’ve tried to take time to sit with the wild emotions of the last few month but I rarely seem to find the moments in the day.
I started these past semesters at a deficit; perhaps, you did as well. I was, and still am, exhausted. I’ve battled a hydra of to-dos and never seem to make a dent. What I noticed, though, was how many of my students were in a similar place as I was…or worse. As a former public school educator, teaching is and remains one of my greatest joys in academia. Witnessing students grasp new concepts and having the privilege to push their thinking is what fuels every other aspect of my scholarly activities. The student’s creativity fuels my own thinking and drives my service pursuits.
I had not fully realized just how much so until starting this semester back in January. The first weeks were fill with joy of being in the classroom and being able to engage with students face-to-face, even with social distancing and masking.
What I had not expected was just how palpable students joy and exhaustion would be present. Over the summer, I was able to spend a few moments reflecting on what being an educator has meant during the pandemic, and what lessons I could take forward into whatever the university experience will be like in future semesters. I have found that vulnerability has been my greatest tool as an educator. I have been honest with my students and have seen their reactions to such honesty: students have shared their struggles, yet, they’ve delved into the topics even more deeply than in the past. They’ve found connections in ways that I had not thought possible. I don’t know what future semesters will bring but I know that I will continue to be open and be as flexible as possible, for that is what my students need.
It has become clear to me that our institutions, even those that consider themselves “progressive”, care little for individual needs. Institutions are unrelenting in their need for outcomes and will continue on long after we have left. Compassion has been sidelined in pursuit of “progress”. Institutions of learning have, as the quote above suggests, centered compliance over learning and growth. I can’t control that, at least not yet, but I can control my classroom. For now, that is what I’ll be focusing on. How about you?