By Sandhya Payankaulam
Adjunct Instructor, Biology
I walk into the classroom to meet for the first time, my students – a homogeneous group of eighteen-year olds, all eager to explore the adventures of college life. We are going to see each other for the next three years. Nostalgic memories of my college days resurface. Our mission was to stay focused on studies and studies only. I am sure that all of these students were told to do the same thing by their parents. Cocooned in comforts they have nothing else to worry about. I am their teacher, a fresh graduate with a Ph.D. under my belt, enthusiastic to share my love for science. My responsibility is to see them advance as scholars. It is the late 90’s; on the far eastern side of the globe, and little did I realize that I was a toned down version of “Paper Chase” Charles W. Kingsfield.
Sixteen years later, the same scene unfolds before my eyes, only with a difference. I am a Biology instructor at LCC, an institution which meets the learning needs of a changing community. My students are a heterogeneous population of eighteen to late fifty-year olds. Some of them had taken a science class most recently, some a long time ago, some of them never. During the course of the semester, I find out that most of them have full time or part time jobs; some with young children to take care of; military veterans; and, people who are battling an ailment. Amidst these responsibilities and trying circumstances, they are here at LCC for a college education or for a degree which would advance or change their careers for the better. It was an eye opener for me; I was humbled to realize that these students have to juggle their time between working, between hospital visits, between taking care of their families, and studying. Being stretched so thin each day can be an ordeal.
Hindsight is 20/20. I realized that in the past I was less sensitive to their emotional well being, bossing not leading. It dawns on me that my teaching technique should be forged with strong empathy and be able to guide students as they navigate through their learning process. These students, not one, but all of them have helped redefine my role as a teacher. For this I am grateful. As I ponder over my task, I remember Joseph Campbell’s words…
“The job of an educator is to teach students to see the vitality in themselves.”