This post was originally written in the spring of 2011 and for some reason never published. I am now sharing it with you.
For the last two semesters I have served however humbly as a lowly graduate assistant at the University of Georgia for the Biology Department. In this role I took on the responsibilities of being the sole lab teacher for six separate Intro to Biology Concepts classes; approximately 120 students, mostly freshmen and almost all non-science majors over the course of nine months.
While I take great pride in knowing that I had the opportunity teach each and every one of the students that came through my door, I am feeling even more blessed to know that for as much as I may have taught them, there are so many things that my students taught me as well.
The things you learn about yourself when faced with the daunting prospect of being solely responsible for whether or not a student learns, are both insightful and a little akin to being hit in the face with a snowball. It’s sudden, unexpected, leaves you cold and wet and takes you completely by surprise…but you kind of like it.
Coming from a background where I did outreach regularly, I was taken by complete surprise when I realized how nervous I was about actual teaching. Somehow or another I got through the first few awkward weeks and soon I developed a routine.
For a while I got to be…relevant, important, a source of information…
It can be such an odd sensation having a bunch of college age kids treat you with respect, as if you were a real “expert” when the truth is, I only graduated myself four years ago (despite the ten plus years I have on most of my students) and oftentimes I still feel like I’m only pretending to be a grown-up.
For a few hours three times a week however I was in charge, the teacher and I enjoyed every minute of it.
I taught my last class today. I don’t know if I will be needed in the fall or if I will ever teach again…but I am so glad I had the time that I did. I admit I was a little sad as the last of my students walked out of the lab. One or two lingered, asking a few last questions, and then they were gone.
I didn’t have a single bad kid, despite a few bumps along the way, they were all good kids with bright futures. Biology 1103 is just a simple science requirement for them, a part of their past…but it’s a past that I had a hand in shaping, which makes me feel pretty good.
I think now I know why people choose to be teachers despite low pay and lackluster benefit packages. Real change is not made in politics, courtrooms or Fortune 500 companies. Want to make the world a better place? You have to start with the next generation. Want to make a difference…be a teacher.