This I Believe
I believe in the transforming power of education.
I never meant to be a teacher, but like the character in Pat Conroy’s novel Prince of Tides, I have come to believe that “teacher” is just about the finest word in the English language.
I teach in a community college, far away from the rarified academic atmosphere of the private university. While we have typical just out of high school freshmen, we also have many so-called non-traditional students. Most are older and just beginning to think in terms of a career rather than low paying service industry jobs. Many are women
and single parents leaving public assistance or recovering from the trauma of divorce. A
high percent are the first person in their family to even consider going to college. Some dropped out of college when they were younger and, not a few, have failed in the public school system.
These students were often told that they are stupid and would certainly never succeed in college. Unlike the 18 year old freshman, they often lack family support and, indeed, many face family resistance and discouragement. With all of this history and with much self-doubt and fear, they somehow summon enough courage to apply and enroll.
As they take those first few courses and begin to realize that they can succeed, the changes are remarkable. I have observed actual changes in their physical appearance. They start to walk with new assurance. Their faces radiate new confidence and they begin to make eye contact with others. College becomes more than learning the skills to find a new job, it becomes about the transforming power of defining oneself differently. These students begin to realize, often for the first time, that they can aspire to and achieve their goals. They can be successful.
Despite the tedium of grading papers and academic meetings, I am privileged to be a small part of a miracle as students gain confidence in their ability to learn and achieve. For it is indeed a miracle, a miracle of transformation, the miracle of becoming a successful and confident person – a person with possiblites.
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