I never lose sight of the fact that I have an obligation
to each and every person in the seats in that room.
This coming Monday, I will have the opportunity to begin my 33rd year in the classroom. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s difficult to believe that time has gone so quickly. In a blink. In recent Facebook postings, a few students I taught in 1982-83 (when I was teaching 7th grade geography at Stanton College Preparatory School) shared their fond memories from 30 years ago. Our time together still resonated.
Whether it was 7th grade geography in the 80s or student success classes in the 21st century I am grateful for my good fortune to have been a small part of the journey these students were traveling on the way to their dreams.
I often think about the biggest changes I have noticed in these thirty-three years. For me the most obvious is technology—and all it means for teaching and learning. My first year in the classroom I was using ditto machines, overhead projectors and 16mm film. (If you have never had the pleasure of threading a 16mm film projector, here is 4 minutes of pure historical “wow.”) My classroom did not have a VCR, television or even a tape deck. Computers? Huh?
One thing that remains constant: The student quest for a dream. Yes, some are laser-focused while others seem to be meandering and lost souls. But deep inside each of my students has been a desire to find a purpose and follow a satisfying journey.
This week as I prepared for the first day of class, I engaged in a ritual I do at the beginning of each semester. Once the syllabi have been duplicated, the technology checked for working order, and my thoughts gathered for my initial comments and exercises, I sit in my classroom. Not just in the “teacher’s chair” mind you. I sit in the student seats in various parts of the room. I do this for two reasons.
One, it gives me a real-time view of what the students will see from those seats. Can they see the screen? Hear the sound? Are there distracting noises? Are the seats close enough for collaboration yet separated enough for a little personal space?
The second reason I do this is because it reminds me—grounds me—that there will be real people sitting in these seats. To me, they are not statistical points on data sheets. They each have a reason for being with me. They each have a dream. And whether they choose me because of me, or are taking the course because it is a requirement, or because it was the only thing that fit their schedules, I never lose sight of the fact that I have an obligation to each and every person in the seats in that room.
In a way, my students have given me the best seat—one on their dream train. I am thankful and full of gratitude for that opportunity.
Video recommendation for the week:
I’ll finish with a video I recently “re-discovered.” It was shot in 2008. While the melody of the song changed when I recorded it in 2010, the sentiment remains.
(Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbVZQ8bGzMs)
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.