*Warning, gushing teacher story to follow.
I know this graduate student, who, like me, is teaching English 101. He's a pretty alright guy, a bit socially awkward, but brilliant and fairly kind nonetheless. The thing is, every time I talk to him, he's always complaining about his students. Not once have I heard him say a positive thing about them. Not once. They're all "jackasses" and "little shits," occupying a portion of his time that could be better spent pursuing more useful endeavors. I'm always struck by his negative attitude about teaching and his students. What's more important than teaching young people how to think for themselves? Who is more important than those little shits who will be our coworkers, colleagues, neighbors, maybe even bosses one day? I'm hard pressed to find good answers to those questions.
The truth is, I love my students. I have two more days with them, then I'll probably never see most of them again. And I'm sad as hell about it. As much as I grumble about cashing in on my WASP status, teaching a roomful of WASPS, I have really enjoyed working with and getting to know my kids. Today a few of them even thanked me as I walked around the room to check on each one as they sat at their computer terminals dutifully hunting down articles for their upcoming research papers. It made me feel like a million bucks, man.
I've had the pleasure of spending this semester with 23 vulnerable yet eager college freshmen, and I can't help but beam with pride when I read what they write now, here at the end. Okay, so a lot of the same errors still abound in their papers--run-on sentences, weak thesis statements--but by god they are thinking about bigger issues now, and I can see in their writing an engagement with the larger issues surrounding low wage work, gender in advertising, or technology in education. They'd got what it takes to think for themselves. I value each one of them, and I really feel confident that they are on the right track to becoming concerned and informed adult citizens of the world.
A month or so ago, I had them all research their careers of interest at the Occupational Outlook website and write about what they discovered about their dream jobs. Hands down, none of them expected how much schooling they'd have to endure to ultimately become the professionals they want to be. I tried to be positive about their goals, but I still wanted to be realistic: what are the odds of having 5 doctors, 4 lawyers, and 7 big time CEOs in the same first year college writing class after all? Still, I hope they all continue to dream big.
I know they're freshmen, and they'll change their minds about what they want to do and who they want to be. Look at me. I'm in graduate school still figuring out all that stuff. And as realistic as I am about what it takes to be successful in this world, I might sound quite un-Tim-like when I say this: I hope Andrew and Carrie become nurses, and that Eli is a sportscaster on ESPN. I'm rooting for Morgan in her pursuit of a career in landscape architecture, and if Megan doesn't become a psychologist, I don't know what I'll do with myself. Alex has the smarts to be an actuary, if he'd just focus a little more in class, and Gabby will be the best damned publicist Hollywood has ever seen. Here's to future veterinarian Chase, music producer Daniel, and power broker Jasmine. Here's to all of those kids, those smart, interesting students, as they pursue this great experiment called adulthood. I hope I never forget any of them.