I’ve been lucky–perhaps blessed–to have had many inspirational teachers and professors who challenged, inspired, befriended and mentored me. It’s impossible to forget the educators who had a positive impact on our lives. Like me, many educators chose their career path because of one or two of their teachers who had a strong influence on them.
The primary job of a college professor is teaching and scholarship, but in my opinion, this description is too reductive. Whether they’re in my class for a semester, a year, or for the major, my students are a massively important part of my life, which extends beyond the formal classroom and into our home, town, and community.
A teacher/student relationship has its origins in the communication of the course material, but I believe the best lessons simultaneously teach the students more about themselves, the text, and the world around them.
I’ve had success connecting with students by:
- Using real-life examples. This can keep their interest piqued while making students think critically about subjects in daily life. For better or worse, I will never run out of hilarious anecdotes about the antics of my five children, so it’s all about skillfully selecting which mishap or malaprop or beautiful moment best illustrates the day’s lesson.
- Encouraging questions. A question never derails the conversation. It simply adds more clarity or a new perspective on the topic.
- Keeping office hours. Advising students as they select courses or make career decisions is important for an individualized experience.
Beyond the Classroom
Some of the best moments with students happen outside of classroom hours. For example, leading or advising an extracurricular group can help to accompany students as they develop skills, talents, and leadership in service of the university.
Though Shakespeare in Performance is an academic class, we do spend many hours in rehearsal preparing for our show run, so I’m able to witness as the students perfect their art. It’s a refreshing blend of working, learning, and delight.
As both an educator and director, I strive to have a positive influence on my students’ lives. What they might not know is that they have an equal influence on my life. Their dedication, integrity, prayerfulness, and joy motivate and inspire me and my family. We are privileged to walk with students as they embark on vocation and adulthood, and somewhere along that path, the student is transformed into a friend.