This is always the time of the year, metaphorically speaking, that I do a lot of self-analysis (as if I don’t do enough already, but you know what I mean). The end of the semester is a time for me to look back on the last few months, to assess what I’ve done and what I’ve not done, to look at where I’ve succeeded and where I could have worked a little harder to succeed, and to take a general temperature of how I feel about the job that I’ve just completed.
This term was a challenging one for me, but the challenges were all surmountable and productive. I’ve laughed as hard as I ever laughed in a class (during a student’s hysterical visual aid speech about duct tape) and have been as scared as I’ve ever been in a class (immediately following Jon’s outburst. More on him later this week). I’ve been profoundly proud of my students and profoundly disappointed in them. I’ve seen some students grow and seen a few who ardently refused to. All in all, it’s been a good semester.
I held my last M/W public speaking class in a local pizza joint this afternoon, and as we chomped on garlic buns and really great slices, I asked them each in turn what they learned this term, and what, if anything, they’d do differently. One student said she learned that it’s important to do the homework (she was profoundly disappointed with her D+ grade, I think) and I pointed out that it’s not always the “smart” folks who get ahead, but the diligent ones. One student was disappointed that he didn’t take chances on his speech topics and, were he to do it over again, he’d have branched out a bit and spoken about things that interested him that he didn’t already know a great deal about. Another student told the group that she learned that she actually has something worthwhile to say.
Then someone asked me what *I* learned, and I was pleased to be prepared with an answer. I learned that I can form a community with a disparate group of people, and that this community can become a safe and supportive place for people to discover their voices. I learned that I still have a lot to learn about the art of debate and persuasion, but that I’m a decent hand at formulating a strong and logical argument. I learned that I can have my best and worst classes with the same group of kids (them!), and I learned that I’m never satisfied when I lower my bar to accommodate people who aren’t invested in their own education.
I’m off to a new adventure soon. I’ll not teach another public speaking class for TCC, and I’m alternately relieved and saddened by that prospect. The entire experience of being an adjunct in this place, with these students, has been entirely enriching for me, though, and I wouldn’t have traded this time for anything.