In Spring 2015, Lansing Community College faculty participated in a Gratitude Project, sharing something about their jobs for which they were grateful. One submission stood out from the rest. Professor Chris Manning talked about a student who taught him exactly why community colleges exist.
Using Professor Manning’s piece as an inspiration, CTES 100 participants now complete a short essay to inspire our fellow teachers and remind us why community colleges exist and why we choose to teach at a community college.
What I Am Grateful For
by Chris Manning
Professor, Center for Transitional Learning
A student, ARK, has been the greatest gift of my teaching career. At 17, she chose to enroll in The Early College. Her mother is a chronic addict and her father, a man she desperately wanted to love and trust, sexually assaulted her. At 17, she only had the support of her uncle. Despite all of this, though, her homework was always turned in on time. She worked to not only succeed in my course, but to test out of her next pre-core courses. She did just that.
Then, she did the impossible. In a writing assignment exploring her educational experience, she wrote about learning and education being a constant in her life when all else was anything but constant. I read about the bullying she endured because she wanted to learn. I learned about nights she spent alone at the dinner table finishing homework. I learned about her moving from one school to another on a yearly basis. I learned about so much of her struggle. So, what was impossible? I cried—just a little—when I finished reading this excellent, powerful essay. I’ve only cried twice before in my life—the birth of my two daughters.
I don’t know if I could ever quantify or even express what she’s taught me. But, I have never been so grateful to work at a school that openly accepts—and even welcomes—students like ARK. Students who are not college-ready, but students who can teach us all about living with purpose, conviction, and genuine strength.