by David Lacy
Anyone who thinks being a teacher only involves lecturing and grading should have seen me monitoring a student’s pulse, while simultaneously relaying information to a 911 dispatcher and also keeping an anxiously curious class of two dozen other students firmly planted in their seats and out of the way.
Mid-class, the young woman had interrupted one of her speaking classmates to ask, apparently in a confused daze, “Is it normal for your fingers to turn blue?”
What followed was a rush of orders: Call 911. Call campus police. Instruct another student to have him help me carry her into the less crowded hall and sit on a bench with firm backing. Speak with firefighters. Speak with EMTs. Do both of these things while keeping the student awake and talking. Call the dean, who was still working, even though it was a night class. Query the EMTs as to whether they had contacted her parents. Determine to which hospital she was being taken. Follow-up the next day with the student.
I wanted to believe it was my fascinating lesson that had caused her to faint several times. Sadly, the doctor insists it was low blood sugar.
When professors interact with up to 150 students per semester, they wear multiple hats in a campus community that has constantly evolving needs. In just one day, teachers are disciplinarians, counselors, mentors, sounding boards, and, well, teachers.
Yet I consider myself exceptionally fortunate to wear all of those hats within the community of Folsom Lake College.
Though I’m a Los Rios alumnus (Sac City!), I gained my teaching chops in Southern California. In Fall 2016, I took a full-time position as Falcon faculty after teaching for nearly 9 years at UC Irvine, CSU Long Beach, and a few community colleges. Even my prior experience at such diverse institutions didn’t prep me for the reality of being full-time at one school.
There are committees on which to serve, clubs to advise, events to host, and forums to attend. There is a front-row seat to campus politics — both the student and faculty versions — that can be at times both fascinating and perplexing.
But fourteen years after I wrapped up my official Los Rios education, and as my first year as a full-time professor at FLC now winds to a close, I am indescribably grateful to have a job that continues to teach me new things, day in and day out.
There are my colleagues, who teach me how to pace the semester chaos, and who encourage me to periodically rouse myself from grading stacks of essays to treat myself to a night of ramen and sake (thank you, Lisa 1 and Lisa 2!).
There are my fellow new faculty hires, who are consistently there for me and one another, whenever any of us have a burning question. I’m not sure how many texts and Facebook private messages we have exchanged, but I’m fortunate to have you all by my side in this new journey.
There is the Newspaper Club, a group of passionate students with different perspectives, whom I have the honor of advising. Though I have a background in journalism, I continue to learn from the members, particularly about the issues so many students care about today. Though our relationship is just beginning, I’m excited to see the path the club takes in upcoming years.
However, more than anyone else, I must thank my students. Yes, a sincere thank you to all 300 of you whom I have had the pleasure of spending several hours a week with for these past two semesters. You probably don’t realize this, but you, more than anyone, continue to teach me how to teach. From you I re-discover every day the joy of self-accomplishment, particularly when a challenging concept has, after much head-scratching, finally been figured out, often made known with an audible, “oooohhh, I get it now!”
From you I learn humility, as I am forced to keep in mind that my own education doesn’t exist in an immutable vacuum. The world you face as community college students is very different than the world I faced as one, and the perspectives you share allow me to adapt to new realities I sometimes haven’t considered.
From you I get daily lessons in patience, generosity, teamwork, and empathy.
I genuinely hope I’m teaching you to be better writers and greater critical thinkers.
You’re sure as hell teaching me how to be a better teacher.
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