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one step at a time…

November 8, 2012

lisa hammershaimb

So, I will admit that sometimes teaching loses its luster for me. Sometimes the mundane daily stuff of grades and planning and answering the same question time and time again crowds out the grand visions of transformation through learning. Sometimes it all gets to be work and the magic fades and I get so, so tired of it all.

This happened today. It was the perfect storm of too much on my to-do list coupled with a shame about few places where I’d legit made some stupid mistakes that I needed to take full ownership of, served with a twist of my own personal insecurities. I was tired today and I was feeling kind of spent and the last thing I really wanted to do was hear more problems or give more of myself or help find yet another creative solution.

Why do I do this work? It’s amazing in many ways but it’s also hard. In the world of distance education, you’re both part of this massive network that connects every computer and mobile device around the world and you’re completely isolated. You have no core of people you share small talk with or randomly bump into in the hallway…your inside work jokes are shared with your small dog and you really can go for a day without leaving the flickering light of a screen. Thinking too much about the tension of both having a world-wide reach and not being able to concretely identify any of your closest work team members if you saw them in a crowded room is really too much for my mind to grasp. On good days it dazzles me…on not so good days it depresses me.

Honestly, who lives like this? Oh wait, that’s me! Everyday, normal life…

I internalize all these crazy ideas and I get sucked into the questions and sometimes I forget the most important reason that I actually do this work. It’s so basic–so simple–that I really do pass it up. The reason I do this work really is for my students. When I talk one to one with my students (as I also had to today) I am overwhelmed by their stories. They do not have the luxury of questioning their place in a grand philosophical sense because they’re too busy working their overnight shift in the factory or getting ready to head out for yet another multi-day trip on their semi or they can barely keep their eyes open from working construction all day. My students tell me about how going to school has been their dream for so many years and they never thought they could manage it, but then this opportunity came and they think this might be their big chance. They tell me about how no one has graduated from college in their family and they’ll be the first. They tell me about how they grew up hearing that they weren’t smart enough, weren’t good enough, weren’t able to handle the challenge and now they’re here and it’s working and every week they gain a bit more traction. My students tell me how they’re doing it for their kids, so they as parents can live out in real life an example of what they want their kid to learn. My students are fighters. They sacrifice and they scramble and they have a will to succeed that is undaunted even in the face of their current situation. Against my cynicism about the system, against my hollow questions about the meaning of it all, they continue to hold fast to a better, larger dream for their lives and for their futures. And I am so inspired by their vision and so honored to be part of their story.

So, why do I do this work? It sounds quite cliche but I really do love teaching my students and showing them how to find their way. I love being an advocate for my students and I fully believe that my influence and their enthusiasm really can change their world…we can bring good. And that is quite dazzling.

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