One of the courses I teach in the Digital Media/Audio/Cinema program is called Introduction to Digital Video Production. It is a “get-your-feet-wet” type of class where students can see if this industry is for them or not. One of the aspects of this course that I enjoy is the incredible diversity of the students. Students of all ages, races, and cultural backgrounds are interested in trying their hands in the media world.
This story centers on an older African American gentleman, whom we’ll call Ben. Ben was a big guy, tall, broad-shouldered with the temperament of a mild spring day. He was a gentle giant. He got along with everybody and was always a happy contributing member in all team projects.
The last day of the semester came and Ben didn’t show up for class. All he had left to do was finish his final project and hand it in. Truth be told, Ben wasn’t really lighting it up in the course. He didn’t have a future in video production and he knew it. But that wasn’t important. I didn’t want to see him quit on himself.
I called him the next morning and let him know that I had a couple more days before I had to have grades in. He still had time to get into the classroom and finish his project. He told me not to worry about it. His car was broken down, and he couldn’t make it to campus to finish up.
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“What’s that?” Ben said.
“Where do you live? I can pick you up, and take you back when you’re done.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line before Ben spoke again. “No, man. Don’t worry about it. I’ll get in there and get it done. I promise.”
I let it go at that point and hoped Ben could do it.
True to his word, on the last possible day, Ben showed up in my office door, with the DVD of his final project in his hand.
I was happy to see him. I jumped up, took the DVD, gave him a congratulatory high-five, and sat back down at my desk.
Ben lingered in my doorway a moment more before saying. “I wanted to thank you for calling me. You’re the first teacher I ever had who never gave up on me, and I wasn’t going to let you down.”
Then gentle Ben walked away, leaving me without words, gaping and staring at an empty, open doorway.
That moment taught me how easy it is to take so many circumstances and life experiences of our students for granted. All students don’t come to our classes for the same reasons, they don’t look at you (the instructor) through the same lens, and they don’t always believe in themselves. It’s up to us, as their teachers, to believe in them until they can start to feel confident in their own abilities.
Ben’s final statement to me gave me a newfound pride and purpose as a community college instructor.