“A circle of life”

While describing an endowment she created (see article), Vicki Green, an Education faculty member at UBC-Okanagan, made this statement:

“There is a circle of life you come to understand as a teacher — when a student comes to university he or she belongs to your present and you become part of their past.”

Just beautiful. She has captured a wonderful duality here, one that in my view is quite profound. When I think of my own time in undergrad, including my professors, I can’t help but see how profoundly it changed my view of the world… and indeed has affected the course of my entire life. As a professor, I am honoured to become a part of students’ past. And yet I’m also keenly aware of how much I am affected each day, for good and not-so-good, by the presence of my students. My present (especially for the 8 months of the year I’m in the classroom) is indeed filled by my students.

As I think more about it, it’s also interesting to consider that professors belong to a students’ present, and students become part of a professor’s past. I suspect that once September hits, all the assignments and learning activities I have carefully planned will influence my students’ present. The students–individuals and cohorts alike–who have journeyed with me through the years have helped shaped who I am as a teacher today. Students in the first stats lab section I ever taught, the first course I ever taught, the first year I taught full time — those represent just a few of the cohorts who have helped me develop as a teacher, and every cohort teaches me something new. Fun thoughts… but I must cut them short. Heading off to STLHE in Montreal tomorrow!

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