I wasn’t sure what to expect, and they inspired me beyond comprehension.
I’ve taught at Castleton University long enough and talked to enough people from 30 years of newspaper reporting that I’m comfortable with people and I never feared being in the front of a class.
But this was different.
This was being in front of a screen, with 18 multi-pixeled faces staring back at me from Zoom boxes as I try to inspire and excite.
Part of me dreaded this type of teaching, but I vowed to prepare and try to give them as much of me, through their phones and laptops, as I could.
I asked them to meet me halfway and said we’ll do good things if they do.
Minutes after my first class, I get a freshly written blog post from a Fort Ann 24-year-old mom of a 4-year-old boy about her life during Covid-19 with the little guy. There was good, like trips to the Ocean and Boston and to Nanny’s pool, and trials, like channeling his energy when social interactions were tough and beating herself up for only cracking two of six pre-school workbooks.
The school newspaper editors published it too, because the writing was so powerful. (See Covid-19, CU and a 4-year-old on this site)
After another class, a student immediately asked for a Zoom chat.
I said I could right then.
She explained that class participation is tough for her, but that she wanted me to know she was engaged. We had a great conversation and I can tell she’s conscientious and intelligent and made me want to work closely with her.
The introductions they posted as an ice-breaking assignment were great too and I learned they some were born in France and Nigeria and Texas. One loves “Trailer Park Boys” another Pink Floyd and another “K-pop (it’s Korean Pop music if you don’t know, like I didn’t).
They were engaged and eager to learn.
I wasn’t sure that would be the case.
Then the kicker happened while I was walking the dog later that afternoon. I got a Facebook friend request from a former student, whom I described to the young mom in the class minutes earlier because he became a dad in college and was juggling classes, work, a serious party schedule and a new baby.
I messaged him telling him how odd it was because I had just mentioned his situation when I was telling the new student she should blog about her situation, like he did 13 years ago.
He’s a teacher now, the baby girl is now 13 and he also has a 6-year-old boy.
When I told him how psyched I was that he was teaching, he wrote back, and I could see the smirk as he typed this: “Pardon the sap, but you were rather influential in the decision to teach.”
I had a great professor at Castleton who had a career in journalism before teaching and I’ve tried to emulate him. This message thread with him just capped an already inspiring day.
I was nervous about online teaching, but now, thanks to students past and present, I’m eager for the next classes.
They inspired me!
And that always feels so good.