“You teach the life you live.” ~ Togo D. West, Jr.
This is my first semester as a real professor. In other words, I even have the title. I am an Adjunct Professor of English. I exist on the school website, I have an email address, a class web page – it is official! However, while all of this is very exciting it also adds a significant level of responsibility that I don’t take lightly.
The students in my class look up to me because they have been taught that as a professor I deserve their respect. I take that seriously. I think about what I am teaching them, the wording that I use, the tone of voice that I speak in, the jokes I make, etc. It is important that I hold myself to a higher standard and that the expectations that I have for them are only second to the expectations that I have for myself.
I love this quote by West and it has become particularly powerful since I began teaching. The way I live is tied in to the lessons that I teach. The way I dress, the casual side conversations that I share with them, the choice I make in the words I use to make my point all tie in to the lessons my students learn. Most importantly, the fact that I listen to them and show my appreciation for the things they share with me teach them that they are someone special and they deserve to be heard and that is a lesson that has nothing to do with their English textbook
I have an incredible group of students — many have challenges that they face each day or disabilities that they have to overcome to succeed. I don’t take it for granted that they are putting their trust in me as a professor and that they are expecting to learn something. I am hoping to teach them that they deserve to have a voice and that they deserve to be a part of the global conversation and that no one — not even a “professor” — has a right to tell them otherwise.