Every semester, I get two new classes, two new groups of students. I usually switch up what and how I’m teaching to give the classes a fresh twist. Sometimes my changes work well and sometimes they fall flat. The new text I used last semester was a bust, but getting my students to keep blogs this semester has been a huge hit.
During the semester, the classes gel in some way. Each has it’s own dynamic. I get classes where the students talk and talk and talk and I rarely say a word, and I get classes where I coax the students to talk more with leading questions. I get classes where the students bond and feel like they’re part of a club or family and I get classes where, for whatever reason, the students get on with their work but don’t form close relationships.
In all these classes, however, I am at the center of them. I develop relationships with each of my students, even the ones who don’t like me or what I teach, and with the group as a whole. I get to know these young adults well – especially because I teach Creative Nonfiction. I know what makes them laugh, what pushes their buttons, what their strengths and challenges are.
My joy comes when I see students’ work improve, when they stop using the word “that” so much, leave the passive voice for the active, or figure out the reason they’ve written about a particular subject. I’m proud of my work when I see how happy they are with their work.
For a brief semester, I am their leader, the one they go to for guidance and support.
When the end of the semester comes, I’m usually exhausted, sad and relieved. I’ve worked hard to get my students to write better, to delve deeper and I’ve read and corrected too many papers to count. I’m glad the hard work is over for a short breather but am sad to say good-bye to each group of students I’ve had.
The students go off, form bonds with new teachers and classmates and I am, maybe not forgotten, but not as important anymore. If I’m lucky, I hear from them later – when they’re in other classes or after they’ve graduated. I’m proud of their accomplishments and look forward to more reports.
So it is with my puppies. For nine weeks, my daughters, husband and I have been the central figures in their lives. We fed them, cleaned them and cuddled with them. We created tight bonds with each of them. We were greeted by wagging tails and watched with pride as they learned to poop outside. We know their habits and their personalities. Rafiki is independent and often sleeps by himself. Pocahontas likes to be the center of the party. Zazu is big, handsome and mellow. Map is the son I never had – funny with a ton of energy.
As hard as it is to say good-bye, I know we’ve done a good job with the pups when they sit relaxed in their new owners’ arms as they leave the house to start forming new bonds with their new families. Soon someone else will be the center figure to their lives – feeding, cleaning and cuddling with them.
So far, I’ve been lucky and have received reports on how well the pups are doing – that they’re sleeping through the night, pooping outside and bonding with the families – I’m proud of them. I did something right. They’ve moved on – puppies and students. My job is to get them there.