Although I’ve been away from campus for many years, I still miss the classroom and the excitement of watching students learn. Fortunately, a few young college students take the time to talk to me a little about their classes and let me know they are still excited about learning. Those visits are most rewarding because they fill a most definite void and remind me of the pleasures and privileges I enjoyed for so many years teaching.
Recently, I wandered into my book room to sit amid many of the textbooks I used so long ago and was delighted to realize I could still remember their contents fairly well. Leafing through some of them and reading my notes certainly reminded me of the hours spent with each of them and the work that went into developing lectures for the many courses that were thrown my way. Although I was originally hired to teach freshman composition, I was later given the opportunity to preside over a variety of courses and had to spend more hours in studying them than I ever bothered to spend in studying any textbook while I was a student.
Preparation for a lecture was not limited to the mere textbook because much background information needed to be gathered to supplement that which appeared in the assigned text. Numerous trips to the library were always indicated, especially before I began collecting my own sources. The hours of reading in order to prepare a lecture for one hour caused the burning of much midnight oil, but they were most refreshing because I was eager to learn as much as possible before entering the classroom. Despite the effort, some students would be just as eager to learn and would ask questions that hadn’t occurred to me, thus causing further research in order to be able to answer their questions later.
Although my favorite subject was Southwestern Literature and Folklore, I always asked to have at least on class of Freshman Composition. I enjoyed teaching the beginners and seeing them become excited about writing various kinds of essays.
Besides, they were such fun to be around because they were just starting to think about their futures and to discover the world around them. They were also still rather lively and needed a little attention in order to accustom them to life on campus.
By selecting the subjects for their essays fairly carefully, I could help them to learn a little about independence and even more about self-discipline. To read their essays through out the semester let me know how to help them with more than grammar and structure. Such essays were great sources for counseling and guiding them at the beginning of their trail through their education. They began to learn a little about themselves and their ideas. Most of them even lost the fear of revealing their feelings about life and about their dreams.
Later, after looking through some of the old textbooks, I picked up a few roll books to look at names of many students I was privileged to have had and was a bit amazed that I could still recall some of the faces and the exact seating arrangements in some of the classrooms. That chapter of my life was most rewarding and fulfilling.