I posted my final grades in haste over a week ago, and save a few student emails about those grades, I am finished with the 2013-2014 school year. The year was a blur.
The work goes from a high-speed car chase to a leisurely bicycle ride in a matter of days. Earlier this week, I rolled into the office and had to turn on the hallway lights at two in the afternoon. I can’t stop thinking about how crazy last year was finishing up my dissertation. When the dust settled, I found myself asking myself, “Now what?” One year later, I am asking myself that same question.
Many things have changed over the course of the last year. I have been blogging and writing actively. Twice, I tried my hand at public storytelling. I maintained an extremely consistent and challenging yoga practice. We lost two dear uncles. We moved houses. I feel just as dizzy as I did last May when I finished up my spring semester.
Looking ahead though, this coming year is going to be a really thrilling ride. This is my last year of teaching at my current institution. As a visiting assistant professor, I am not contracted past this academic year. So, the next few months will be full of career exploration (and lots of reflection about it). I’ll be networking and blogging.
Before the summer fully sets in, I need to remind myself of what teaching taught me this year.
So here goes:
Teaching taught me to be less controlling. I would not characterize myself as a Type A, controlling person. I used to be a perfectionist but I don’t really have enough time in my life to make everything perfect. So I settle for the best I can do (which is all my father ever asked of me). But this year, by being less controlling and trusting in others more, I was able to relax and sleep. By being less controlling and more flexible, I led some of the best classes of my teaching career so far. Because I was less controlling, I trusted myself more and opened up to new experiences. Those new experiences have led to loads of personal contacts and new social networks. I’ll need to tap those networks as I negotiate the next phase of my career.
Teaching taught me to be patient. Teaching new ideas to students takes time. I have learned that sometimes I have to be satisfied with planting seeds and never seeing that work fully bloom. If I am patient, I’ll also learn from the people around me. Patience with my work will help me be a better writer and researcher. And being patient is something I’ll master in the coming year that is full of unknowns. Discovering the next phase of my professional life takes time. Staying patient helps me be less controlling, too.
Teaching taught me to be inspired by the people in my life. I am SURROUNDED by inspiring people. It is not the achievements of these people or accolades that they me earn that inspire me. The dedication and the character they have shown in the face of really challenging life circumstances inspires and strengthens me.
Say what you want about college students, many of them are battling serious life challenges to stay enrolled in their institution. This past year was no exception. I met students who were recovering from near fatal illness or working through all kinds of learning challenges. I worked with students experiencing trauma in their lives or in the lives of their families. Their dedication to their work, to their education and to themselves was really inspiring.
And my friends and family are truly inspiring. I know people in all ages and stages of life going through all kinds of personal and life challenges from fatal illness to infertility, to starting a new life with a new partner, to overcoming unexpected loss. The grace and strength they show me inspires me to be graceful and strong, too.
I am not “off for the summer” this summer–my professional life will always be a work in progress. However, I will be back to a part-time work schedule and I am ready for some time with my kids, some time spent on work, and planning for the next academic year.