Monday, July 1, 2013

Telos of Teaching

Coming to terms witht the last day, again.

Today is the last day of summer teaching for me. I have a short break from teaching before classes begin in August and I need it. My wife and I have a baby due in November and need to spend some time together while we can. I have a paper I want to get out to a publisher this summer and another on which I'd like to make serious progress, aiming at sending it off before my baby's due date. I need to revamp my online class to meet accessibility standards. I will be moving to a new office and need to unpack, decorate, etc. I am part of my University's assessment team and will be traveling to Illinois before long to work with the Higher Learning Commission on improving assessment. I have a lot to do and teaching really is getting in the way of it.

Still, teaching is why I got into this gig. I didn't know I was going to be a teacher growing up. It wasn't until I got a job with the writing center at the university where I did my undergraduate work that I realized this was an option. As I sat across the table from my tutees, teaching them to write better, something woke up inside me. It was a realization that this is what I was MEANT to do. If a person has never experienced this, it is really difficult to explain. One of the reasons I could never doubt the existence of God is that I cannot doubt my experience of teleology, of becoming what I am meant to be.

I get this sense at other times and in other places: during worship at church, sometimes when I'm writing a research paper, occasionally when I'm working in a committee and it all clicks together to create something good for the institution. Every time my wife and I have gone in for an ultrasound and I've seen my unborn child on the screen, I've felt it. None of these is a situation where I can always expect it, however. None of these is as replicable. Every single time I've gotten in front of a classroom, every single time I've stood to teach, whether I do well at it or not on a particular day, I feel like a needle in a groove, like a train on a track, like a gear in a machine. I feel like I am moving and doing what I've been designed for and it feels good.

And as I do it, I fall in love. I fall in love with the ideas. I fall in love with the material. I fall in love with the students. If falling in love is a metaphor, it is a near one. I hunger for it. I desire it. My heart flutters and I get goose-bumps. Every day, at the end of class, I am eager for the next one.

Then it ends. Every semester ends. It needs to end. I am exhausted. My soul is empty because I have poured so much in to this. Yet, I am sad. Every semester the pain of ending is worse. Many of these students, I will never see again. Certainly, if I do, the relationship will be changed, strained, forced somehow. It's over. So, I go into a bit of a funk here on the last day. I need it to end, but I want it to just keep going.

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