Christianity, Practical Living, Teaching

5 Things I Learned This Semester

1) Some students don’t know what is appropriate.

I teach college freshman (read: some fresh out of highschool, a few in high school, some my age, and a few old enough to be my own parents), and I didn’t want to baby them by explaining to them what was appropriate and what wasn’t for in-class presentations. I thought “we’re all adults here.”

I was really, really wrong.

Exhibit A:

In a presentation, a student explained to the class how he was held up in New York and “politely asked” to trade his new retro Jordan sneakers in exchange for the gun that the guy was using to hold him up. Needless to say he traded.

Don’t worry. He sold that illegal gun on eBay and used the money to buy new shoes, so the story ends well.

Exhibit B:

You know something is going to go wrong with a presentation when the presenter starts by saying “We all know what the “F” word is” and then what follows is a South Park video.

I wanted to cover a couple of home-schooled dual-enrollment students’ ears.

We had a conversation later about it:

Student: “Well I searched for the edited version of the South Park video, but I couldn’t find one (not surprising), so I had to show this one.”

Me: You HAD to show this one?

Student: (hesitantly) yeah…I mean I did search for the edited version.

Me: There is a third option here: not show the video at all.  You don’t HAVE to show the video with Samuel L Jackson-style expletives. In fact, not showing it is always the right choice.

Exhibit C:

A girl wanted to use an image (of a naked woman) as a part of her presentation on how women are objectified in the media. It was hilariously (and sadly) ironic.

Fortunately, she didn’t get to show it, because I got smarter and started screening the presentations ahead of time.

2) I hit it out of the park in teaching them MLA citation.

A student quoted an entire paper but didn’t plagiarize it. Instead after every few lines he referenced the one source that he got the entire paper from. #MLAintextcitationforthewin

3) I’m more insecure than I thought.

I had a few students that were super rude this semester. Normally, I have pretty tough skin with students, but for whatever reason these students were really getting to me. I found myself correcting them out of annoyance and over-explaining my actions or choices for how to teach the class. Deep down I thought that if they knew I had their best interests at heart then they would like me. I was really, really wrong about that too.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought about how ugly it is to demand affection or respect from someone else. It is the compliant parent who gives everything that a child asks so that they “like” them or worse a parent who disciplines out of anger because the child hurt their feelings.

After I realized that their lack of respect for me was bringing out some real insecurity, I prayed a lot. I prayed that I would teach my students whole-heartedly not so that they could like me, but so that I could really serve them.

4) Life is dark and difficult, and that is why Jesus came to redeem everything.

This semester the following things happened:  a student’s cousin died, a student’s uncle died, a student’s dad died, a student got kicked out of their house and lost their job in the same week. I had students in the hospital multiple times for seizures, life-threatening infections, and serious car accidents.

Then there are all of the other situations that I never heard about.

All of the suffering reminded me how much we all long and hope for some type of redemption. Just one semester of teaching classes at a local community college, and I am even more sure that this world is broken, that humans are sinners, and that we desperately need someone to come and fix it for us. We can’t fix the world or ourselves on our own.

That is why I have been clinging to Jesus’ declaration in Revelation: “Behold I am making all things new.”

He has come to renew mankind and the world. I’ve been praying that I can take a more active part in that renewal daily.

5) Bossypants (by Tina Fey) is the best reading after a stressful week of grading.

There’s nothing else to say. It was the best end to a grueling grading week. Thanks Tina Fey (and Callie Blackwell for letting me borrow it)!


1 thought on “5 Things I Learned This Semester”

  1. Thanks for those thoughts, Jessica. You helped me understand better about my teaching “burnout” caused by overwhelming disrespect that I confronted daily. Those were my “dark years” and yet they were the best years in “sowing in tears” (Ps. 126)

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