One of the best parts of teaching, for me, is the privilege of building relationships with students who bring all kinds of life experiences into the classroom with them.
* Eighteen-year-olds, fresh out of high school, some wishing to be at a four-year university instead of the community college, others not quite sure where they’re headed.
* Twenty- and thirty-somethings, returning after a few years of work or military service with a little life under their belt, as well as hopes of bettering career options.
* Recently single moms, forced back into the workplace and in desperate need of further education.
* First-generation college students who are their parents’ hope and pride.
Many of the students I teach are prepared, hungry for the opportunity to finally demonstrate their capability, ready to shine. Some struggle with a range of challenges: procrastination; learning disabilities; runaway children; drug addiction; homelessness.
I can’t say I’ve seen it all, but sometimes it feels like I’m getting pretty close.
Until this student entered my classroom for the first time.
I’d seen him buzzing around campus in his motorized chair; heard his computer “talking” for him; watched his assistant help him with his books, his jacket, his sippy-cup of milk.
But on that day, I found myself face to face with this person whose unique set of needs would call for internal resources I’d not yet had to draw from. I didn’t know what would be required of me, but I suspected that my usual repertoire of teaching strategies would need some updating.
My encounter plunged me right smack dab into the middle of a test. A test of my organization, my communication skills, my teaching ability. More important—a test of my character. My patience. My generosity.
Not a written test. Real-life. Real-time. Right now.
Maybe the anxiety didn’t show on my face, but it was impossible to miss in my gut.
Did I have the skills to teach him what he needed to know? Would I be able to see him as God’s beloved created handiwork? And could I manage to communicate his immeasurable worth, even while maintaining the standards of my academic discipline?
He wanted to pass the course. I wanted to know if I had what it would take to pass the test.
I wasn’t convinced that I did.