Be forewarned, this is a mushy blog. I’m normally the kind of person who swears that seeing her students each day is a gift in itself. Yeah, just like the 2-year old having a meltdown in the middle of the supermarket by lying on the floor and flopping around like a fish out of water is a blessing.
But in reality, that’s why I love teaching. Like any prof, I spend a shitload of time every week to prepare for class and grade assignments. And my reward? A few brief, yet cherished, hours spent with my students.
Only this quarter, no matter how much I tried to make it better and relish my last full-time quarter at WWU (which I should mention, is both my employer and my alma mater), I was feeling a little underappreciated.
Monday was my first gift: A holiday. I respectfully understand that it was Memorial Day. It was meant to observe, honor, and remember. But I slept. And I was much happier to see my students on Wednesday than I would have been on Monday. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
Wednesday provided many gifts. I had an end of quarter party in my Small Group Communication class (yes, just like 5th graders do – don’t be critical), hosted Friendship Day in my Interpersonal Communication class (yes, just like 3rd graders do – again, don’t judge – they freaking love it). I listened to just 3 (rather than the usual 6) speeches in my Public Speaking class (thank you god): Speech #’s 63, 64 & 65.
And then I attended a BBQ for about 50 Public Speaking Instructor Assistants (IAs). Our IAs are a blessing. And not just because they do most of our grading. They are delightful people who help students grow as speakers and make the class markedly less daunting and more enjoyable. It was there that our Director presented my colleague (who is also leaving) and I with an unexpected gift: A memory book filled with a picture of us with our assistants and little signed cards from assistants who have worked with us throughout the year. It contains so many smiles and kind words that, I know, will cheer me up after any bad day.
The day then ended with the Teaching & Learning Academy Awards ceremony. Lots and lots of students, professors, staff members, departments, and organizations were recognized. It was noted that oftentimes awards of recognition are few and far between within academia, and the goal of this ceremony was to recognize all individuals/groups nominated by anyone. No letters of rec needed from the department Chair, colleagues, or students. No academic vitae, teaching evaluations, or research program to be evaluated. Just recognition for making a difference in someone’s life. Every award has the recipient’s name printed on the front and then contains their nominator’s comments/thanks on the back. Seriously, we should do this more often.
Friday was also ripe with gifts. Two students who I’ve worked closely with this year, and who also quickly become dear friends to each other, painted me a beautiful picture. It has bright colors and two quotes about teaching. They also wrote a special thank you letter and gave me a set of little margarita shaped candles that match the painting. And they also orchestrated a card for me, signed by all of the IAs on our section.
I know that instructors receive thank you cards and gifts periodically from students (and we must remember that we cannot accept gifts *before* grades have been finalized), but this quarter was especially touching. It helped me remember why I’m here, and I think Taylor Mali captures it best.