Explorations of mind, paths, and life

Clock Struck 12

Posted on June 14, 2008 - Filed Under self reflect

As I weed through inputting grades for approximately 82 Quizzes, and download 71 papers either late, very late, timely, or extra credit, I am oddly amused by the rush. This is the first time that I have indicated to students that there is no other option but midnight, and still, as 11:58pm ticked on, my Inbox tone [“chring”] chirped at me incessantly. I sat back and watched a moment, breathing and realizing that just as I sat here, there were students in labs, on laptops, or a friend’s PC, rigorously typing out answers to quiz questions or stroking their heads as they squeak out just a few more words to “satisfy the specifications of the assignment” broadly missing the purpose for such exercises. All these bodies, ticking away, their hearts beating, fingers tapping on the keyboard, desperately working against the clock at the same moment that I was staring at these endeavors from the other end. How is it that I became part of such an elaborate wave of electronic hysteria.

I ask students to write – 1 page – weekly, on their thoughts, reflections, questions, and “learnings” related to the chapter presented, the movies reviewed, and generalized lecture concepts. Sounds like a tall order, however, each student earns their full 20pts if the entry includes at least one self-reflective thought and a full page of other stuff. I encourage them to jot down their thoughts, even as class goes on; write anything that triggers a memory, idea or reaction. “This is the fuel for your journals,” I say, “This is Interpersonal Communications, and as daunting as those two big words seem, this is about everything we do as humans!”

I am amazed at how the men in my classes sometimes blow the women out of the water with their journals. Not all of them, but there are a few who start off with journals that say, “Yeah, I gotta write something, so lets pick some BS here or there and toss it around,” to journals that are sincere, deep, touching, honest, and often reflect some new movement in the scheme of their lives. The women, if really wanting to learn, will clearly start off with some deep self-reflections, however, they also hold back what they want to say (for fear of being judged, or for fear of being seen as judgmental?) almost reaching out and yet never quite stretching to grab hold of what may be their truth. Or, with some students, they open up, and later, fearfully apologize for being “sad, angry, vengeful…” in their paper. I nod, and smile, and let them know that it is just one sliver of who they are, and sometimes just a sliver of how they feel at just that moment, and all is good. That isn’t to say that all my female or male students do this, as I have a handful from both sides who just amaze me with words and stories that speak so much to the human condition, all grown from the moment they entered the classroom These students are just steaming to feel out the world and know more about themselves.

Maybe I ask too much of the students, to write their thoughts and sentiments. Yet, this class is so powerful in that it talks so deeply to human nature, to our need to connect, be “part of”, to be known and our fears of being known well. The only way to teach this class is to ask that students think about their own experiences. How else do they find truth and meaning in what I have to say or teach?

So, I end each term, pleased and disappointed. Pleased at those students who have taken time to treat this as a bit more than just another course, fulfilled at the stories that I have gathered and had the honor to read, touched by the messages that teach me more about myself, and sometimes even aid in my own healing and growth as a being. Then, disappointed with those who promise to do well and proceed to fail, who snicker at the messages and miss opportunities to learn more about others, who play games, even in their papers, with those that they are exposed to, and regard their protections so highly they miss the splendor of learning new ways to relate to the world.

Yet, despite the few who beg me to show them a way to pass at the last moment, or fill my ears with promises to catch up and then fail to do so, I also silently know that I will get them again. [I am the only one teaching the course at this point and it IS a requirement for General Education!] And maybe, the next time around, the climate of the classroom is just right, and these students will get just what they need (if they haven’t already) or make new connections about themselves. Since I can remember, my deepest purpose in life has been to serve the world in positive ways, to give of myself so that I can plant seeds of encouragement, to give as much unconditional positive regard to those whose path crosses mine. That is a tall order at times, as my own feelings get in the way, but I try so very hard because I learn so much about myself along the way.

The clock is way past 12 midnight. My pile is already 2 inches thick and still does not include the 71 assignments downloaded. I have a lot of reading to do, and I expect a good nights sleep will help.


One Response to “Clock Struck 12”

  1. Ana on June 24th, 2008 6:31 pm

    I found YOU! I just had to type your name actually… Well, I’ll be here, reading your posts and pretending I still have your class… I miss it already. Just to let you know, no, you don’t ask too much from the students. Every journal, movies, discussions, different point of views were essential to me. If there are some students that don’t understand the pleasure of your class (one day they will wish for it), please think of the ones that do.
    Ana =)