Friday, December 9, 2016

Dear Student, XI

Twelve weeks ago, I wrote my last letter to you. I'm flummoxed by that number. Twelve? As in, it's been three (!) months since I felt the need to address you? I thought for sure that you'd manage to do something to disrupt the teaching balance I'd found and cause me to write a letter sometime throughout this semester, but apparently, you did not. And here we are, in the final week of class (the countdown that began that first day is ALMOST OVER!) and I'm writing a letter to let you know something important:

I will miss you.

Gah! Did I actually just write that sentence down? [Pause, gulp.] Yes, I did. In fact, let me write it again, a little larger this time:

I will miss you.

I know, I can't believe it either. I was so sure last August--when the countdown to December 9 began--that the semester would be full of arduous days and complaining, both on my part and yours. And for the majority of the semester, it was.

I heard about so many things from you: how the job was going (or not); what virus had hit your children (or you or your parents); how difficult the class could be (yes, it can be); how lives had been taken away too quickly (why so many deaths this semester?); the despondency you were feeling because of the election (for what it's worth, I felt it, too). And keeping up with five classes of students, their needs, as well as my needs and those of my children at home--that was some feat, let me tell you. I almost caved at one point early on in the semester, before I figured out what tasks won the top spots on my priority list. All of those negative thoughts and feelings, both from you and from me, could have hovered in a nebulous cloud inside that classroom, threatening to suffocate us. But miraculously, they didn't.


Why is that? I've thought a lot about that question, and while I'd like to take complete credit for the positive and nurturing environment inside the walls of room 4134, I can't. That's because you, dear Student, brought some light to the darkness that surrounded this semester for me. I can't say I looked forward to seeing you each day--I didn't bound out of bed in the morning and think Yes! This is the day I go to work and teach that inquiring mind!--but I can say that walking into that sardine can of a classroom and hearing your chatter or watching your eyes light up when a concept clicked made all the difference. The days when you laughed at my horrible puns (remember when we were talking about the lingual frenulum and I said that the word itself was awesome and that it just rolled off your tongue?) helped me feel alive at times. From behind the lectern, I'd look out at your eager (yet tired) face and think, Okay, maybe this will all be just fine.

And it was.

So thank you, dear Student, for making this fall semester just fine. Thank you for attending class as much as you did. Thank you for asking questions and listening attentively. Thank you for studying hard, or at least making me think that you studied hard. Thank you for respecting me and your fellow students, and thank you, especially, for reminding me why I decided to go into teaching at a community college 16 years ago. I had hoped then that it was the right decision, and I know now that it was.

January will be tough for us all, I think. You will head onto the more difficult phases of your education, and I'll be stuck in another room like 4134 with a bunch of unfamiliar faces and the cold bitterness of the winter at my back. But I want you to remember that if you made it through this course, you'll make it through the next one and the next one and the next. And if you come upon an answer you absolutely aren't sure of, always remember that maybe, just maybe, using common sense will help you scale that hurdle (or the answer is gap junction).

I wish you all the best as you make your way forward in life.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

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