I Believe that teaching in a community college helps all the people of the world.

Shirley - Melrose, Massachusetts
Entered on April 12, 2009

I believe that by teaching in a community college I am helping all the people of the world.

This understanding did not come to me fully formed. Raised with Albert Schweitzer as my hero, I have always felt a strong obligation to improve things for all the worlds’ citizens in whatever way I could, and waited for the day when I could begin, never believing that I had contributed much thus far.

An epiphany came when lost in a reverie about the conditions that Nelson Mandela and his fellow detainees endured in their forced labor in the 120⁰ lime mine on Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa. The fact that my bus was pulling away without me went unnoticed as I looked into the cave in which they pursued their university studies when allowed a break. They understood that knowledge is power and that they wanted to be armed with it when they won release. They had big plans, for which we are grateful, and they have joined Schweitzer as my mentors. When the urgent sound of my name sent me running for the vanishing bus, I was stunned that I had been granted a new view of my place in the world.

Years after my visit as a Citizen Ambassador to South Africa I continued to criticize myself even more stringently for not doing enough for the globe’s needy people. One day while enmeshed in conversation on lofty topics, one of my colleagues pulled things together by reminding me that we teach people from all over the world and the ripples of their education spread to all the people with whom they come in contact. Eureka! Since in my teaching I strive to leave each of my students with the perception that they have now learned leadership skills, I finally grasped the privileged role I play and the responsibility I bear. As my students return to their neighborhoods and their countries equipped with their new learning, they are skilled agents of positive change and their work makes the world a better place.

I believe that as teachers in community colleges we touch the whole world community.