You lay your clothes out, you pack your backpack, and you hardly sleep because you just can’t wait for it all to begin again.
It’s a new semester here at college.
I’ve been packing a backpack for 30 years, but for the last decade, I’m the teacher and not the student. My backpack has syllabi, course rosters, grammar books, and a tattered anthology of literary works. I still have a red pencil case (some things never change), lunch, and notebook paper. But I’m the teacher now.
I study them: I learn their names and remember their hometowns and majors. I’m suddenly fascinated. I can’t help it. I’m a student of the students, and maybe that’s my secret.
One just returned from Africa and will introduce us to his passion for African modern art. Another just switched majors from nuclear engineering to classics (there’s a great story hiding there!). Four of them have parts in a musical theater production in April (which we all must attend). A dozen kinesiology majors, seven history majors, five communication disorders majors, and three education majors captivate me with their career paths. I forgot to mention the philosopher, the criminal lawyer, the animal physical therapist, and the international stateswomen.
Here we all are together in one place for a college semester to learn advanced writing and professional development.
That’s why I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t turn on all the technology and hide behind elaborate presentations. I sat with them in the circle, looking into the white of their eyes. Once the big screen comes down and the hum of electricity rises like a swarm of wasps around me, I know I won’t see them the same way. And they won’t see me. I’m not ready for that. There’s too much to learn.
Living with flair means I’m a student of the student. I earn the right to teach by learning first, and sometimes (most times) technology impedes rather than promotes authentic connection. We’ll see what I do with this high-tech classroom. I’m still learning.