Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to the Grindstone!

One of the most joyous bits of teaching is the holiday break between fall and spring semester. It is such a wonderful time; I knit, sleep, read, complete tasks and get life back in order after a very hectic 16 weeks. Things pile up --- emails, letters, laundry, and all kinds of projects. But, one of the things I love, too, is going back to campus.

There is an energy that fills the air as we approach the new semester. Everything seems possible. Every student has an A. Every paper is graded. Every meeting is held. Everything is perfect. For one day. And then, all things fall apart! But, for that first few days, everything is as I would hope for every single day. Perfect.

But, in reality, would that be so wonderful? The pressure of keeping everything up-to-date would be overwhelming. The time it takes to grade every single paper in one week, to answer every email, to meet every student, and complete every project is simply not available if I am doing what I think is really more important -- listening and talking to students.

The world is very fragile. As someone said to me not long ago, it is held together with baling wire and prayers. And no where is this more evident than in a community college. Students come to us so damaged, many times by 'educators.' These are the people who tell a student, "Give up on that dream; I just don't think you can hack it. You have too many developmental classes to take. You don't demonstrate what I think a .... needs." The damage takes so many forms. But, regardless of what the form, ultimately it is the student who pays the price for other's unkindness.

This past week, I received an email from a young woman I worked with on her reading and writing so that she could pass both the exit examination for her university and her Praxis test (it is required for licensure and measures knowledge in one's major). She tried the exit exam and the Praxis three times before coming to me after a friend who had me in class recommended it. We talked and I could see that she lacked confidence. Her husband as well as other teachers had told her that she couldn't cut it. She bought it. We talked more, prayed together, and then set out a course of action.

I gave her "homework" and she would come see me and we'd review her work. She took the first part of the Praxis. She passed. We worked more. She took the second part and passed with flying colours. Then, she had to take the Math. She failed it two more times. We talked, agreed to be prayer partners and ask for guidance. Last week, she passed it and will graduate and start teaching in a public school in a very poor region of Southwest Virginia in the fall.

She will know what it feels like to "not get it." She will have compassion, devotion, commitment, and kindness. She will touch lives for generations. And, I know for sure, she will never give up on a student. This is why I get up every morning and do what I do. I am blessed, don't you agree? And Tammy, I am very proud of you!


  1. I loved your image of baling wire and a prayer. I know what baling wire is (we used to always call it baler twine).

    I was sad to think that so many of your students come so trodden on from 'curse-like words. Why do people think it's their 'duty' to burst someone's dream, just because it looks a little impossible. Isn't that what dreaming is for.... to discover impossible things and find ways to make them real.

    Anyway........ enjoyed your posting.........

    Wishing you a splendid 2010! Looking forward to visiting often! Brenda

  2. You are both blessed and a blessing, Matty! How fortunate for your students.

    Enjoy your new semester! (I always love the beginning of new classes - always with a brand new notebook.)


  3. Matty, what an inspiration you are! There should be more teachers like you. I taught at a community college nights to moms getting back into the work force or who had fallen on hard times because of divorce, etc., I loved teaching them new skills ( I taught in the medical field) and encouraging them. Most of them skidded through HS but they "wanted it" and to be a part of it was well, a blessing to my soul. To watch these women learn Anatomy and Physiology when they hadn't had a science class since HS biology was incredible! Keep it up--the schools need you:-)

  4. Matty, what a wonderful caring person and educator you are! Wish there were more in this world.


  5. I wrote to my daughter recently that I would love to take Christopher's grades (three "A's" and one "B+" (in Calculus 2) to his elementary school teacher who thought he was stupid and a trouble maker because he was ADHD.

    That and the school demanding he stay drugged was the reason we started homeschooling.

    Christopher spent two years in a community college to prepare him for the University science programs. It was sad that the dropout rate in the first few weeks was something like 30%.

  6. Brenda,

    IMHO, most children are bored; very, very few have any real learning problems. I had a child who was gifted and raised another who was mildly retarded. Both were bored to death in school. There is such a demand to make students "cookie cutters" that there is little individuality in teaching. However, in most teachers' defense, there is such a fear of the End of Grade testing that I cannot blame them for shooting for good scores. It is a catch-22.

    While the attrition rate is high in the community college, it is just as high in universities, for nearly the same reasons -- lack of preparation, lack of confidence, anxiety, and money. How I wish we could just have 'lyceums' again where we could all just sit and talk and learn.

    I am very proud of Christopher! He is a remarkable young man! He had a wonderful teacher at home! :)

  7. Dee from Tennessee

    Thank you, thank you for what you do. God bless you!


Thanks for dropping in on the farm today! I enjoy your comments!