What do I love about my job? Well, pretty much everything. I feel so incredibly blessed to work as an educator. I love everything about working on a college campus. Right now, as I type, I look out my window and watch students walking to class. I remember those days as a student. They were wonderful. Sure, I had classes I hated (hello, College Algebra!), but I loved being a student. It's probably one of the reasons why I kept going to school for so long.
And here I am now, fifteen (almost sixteen) years into my career, and I couldn't be happier. But what is it that makes it so great? You know, unless you have experienced it, it is kind of hard to articulate. But let me see how I do. Yesterday I was teaching my pre-service teachers, and it was all renewed in my mind. Now preservice teachers are great. For the most part, they are eager to be the best they can be, and they want to learn what they can do to better prepare for their future students. Currently, my students are working on a podcasting assignment. For a lot of students, it's an intimidating assignment. Podcasts are something they can download on iTunes, not something they are capable of creating. It's all magic, right? It's how they feel about a lot of the new technologies they encounter in my course. But I had my students in a new lab (I always teach in a lab, but this lab had both Macs and PCs), and we went over how to create a podcast. I did everything I was supposed to do: I demonstrated, I explained steps in the process, I broke the process down into smaller steps, I gave them the opportunity to practice and provided guidance. Let's face it folks, it was everything it was supposed to be. And you know what happened? IT happened.
I saw the look. Not just any look, THE look. The one where they get it and know that they get it. The look they get when they realize, "Holy cow, I can make a podcast!" AWESOME. That's what I love about my job. I love the look.
Later today I'll go participate in a dissertation defense for one of our doctoral students. And it's the same thing. We'll listen to his presentation, ask him about what he's done, you know, all that's involved with the defense, and hopefully, we'll shake his hand and the end and call him DOCTOR for the first time.
I think that's the great part of my job. Celebrating the students and the look. That's what makes it great. And every once in a while, someone says thanks. I got this letter from a student last semester:
Dear Dr. Curry,
I write you this message out of the sheer appreciation and gratitude I owe to you for the opportunity to serve as your student, but also to inform you of how you and your attitude toward learning and teaching have influenced my life.
On the first day when I walked into your classroom full of computers, I immediately thought to myself, “Oh this should be interesting, I wonder if he can keep my attention with a computer in front of me…” Indeed, I was quite skeptical, questioning your ability to actively engage students in an innovative, abstract, and applicable manner. I walked into your classroom on the first day of class as a skeptic who doubted you and your abilities and I left your classroom at the end of the semester a skeptic. A skeptic, yes, but this time it was much different than the first day, because I was a skeptic of knowledge, information, and life, but I left believing in you and your abilities and with you believing in me and my abilities.
A famous philosopher named Socrates once said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” Likewise, a wise professor by the name of Dr. Curry once asked me, “What is a chair?” I will never forget that day in class and how dumbfounded I was. I replied with something to the effect of, “it is something that you sit on...” and then the conversation took off, continuing with you questioning my thoughts about it means to really be a chair. As a result, I began to question and think critically about everything I thought I knew. In addition to opening my mind to critical thinking, you also revealed the importance of thinking, and more than thinking- formulating my own opinions, beliefs, and definitions. You are one of the first professors that I have encountered who encouraged us to constantly question that which we think we know. I appreciate that more than you can imagine because what is life if you just accept it for what other people see it as, define it as, and experience it as? If we were to do that, all knowledge would be truth and everything will be accepted and we would be no better than glorified robots, unable to think or reason for ourselves. Thank you for preventing me from becoming a glorified robot.
All of this to say, you allowed me to think, you encouraged me to bring, as Jacob Bronowski would refer to it as the, “certain ragamuffin barefoot irreverence to [my] studies...not to worship what is known, but to question it.” More than that, you encouraged me to determine what I thought and more than what I thought, what I believe, and not to just believe it, but to live it with passion. When I think of how to describe you, passionate would most definitely be one of the many words that would be on the list. Through the passionate manner in which you teach, deeply caring and interested in each of your students, you change lives and open minds. I know you have changed my life; thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to become the best student and teacher possible. I cannot even begin to express what it means to me to have one of my professors express to me that he genuinely believes in me, thank you for that Dr. Curry. Your perseverance and dedication throughout the semester while dealing with your injured knee serves as a testament to the caliber of a teacher but also the sort of person that you are. Even when in pain, you showed up and always brought something intriguing for us to attempt to wrap our minds around. Thank you for your commitment to your students and also to learning and thinking.
Although the class title was “Educational Technology”, I walked away from your class with much more than an understanding of “Educational Technology”. Do not get me wrong, I did learn how to use technology in an educational setting in some extremely interesting ways, but I really think that you, in addition to the technology, were more of an “educational” experience than anything. I learned more about education, learning, and thinking critically than I have in any of my courses throughout my educational career.
In closing, please keep doing what you’re doing – turning the minds of students completely upside down and then starting from the ground up, causing them to view the world around them differently. Keep encouraging students to try new things that they might have never even heard of or been afraid to use. Lastly, I hope that you will remain passionate about learning and sharing your love of knowledge, instruction, technology, critical thinking, and life with your students. We need more teachers like you in the world that truly care about their students and encourage and push them to be the best they can be and most importantly, teachers that believe in them. You are an amazing professor and I know that you will make a difference in the lives of many more students in the years to come. Thank you for being the teacher that you are, for you are truly an inspiration.
And that, Sports Fans, is why I love my job. Know what I mean?