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The Gift

Dayna Edwards
Adjunct Instructor of Communications

As a new instructor at Lansing Community College, I find myself reflecting upon the semester I just completed and the mission statement of this wonderful institution. Although I was fortunate to observe the development of many of my students, one young man comes quickly to my mind. For the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to him as Chris.

At the beginning, Chris appeared quiet and had trouble expressing himself aloud. Interestingly, I discovered that one of his summer jobs was that of a camp counselor. I found this information valuable. It told me that he may not be as introverted as he appeared in class, and that he had potential leadership qualities.

The class I teach is called Communications in the Workplace and the goal is to prepare my students for their journey through both academic and practical experience. Part of this practical experience included both group and individual classroom activities, where students would solve a problem and then make a quick presentation about their findings.

Before our first presentation, I prepped them by letting them know that I understood how difficult it is to get up in front of a classroom to speak, and because of this, we would be doing it each week in order to help them develop a comfort with the process. Then I set some expectations. From that moment on, we were not just a classroom, we were Team Edwards. This meant that we would give each speaker the courtesy of our undivided attention and we would show our support by applauding after each presentation. I made it clear that this would be a safe place to learn this skill and that there would be no room for criticism or judgement. This practice coincided with one of one of my favorite quotes by Benjamin Franklin which states, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.”

So, I involved them. Week after week my students participated in this classroom practice and I watched several students evolve; especially Chris. His nervous, quivering voice, soon became calm and confident.

He began making good eye contact with his classmates during his presentation and he no longer looked at me for validation or to assist. It was exciting for me to watch this evolution.

However, one day after class, Chris stood in line and patiently waited to talk to me. “Ms. Edwards” he said, “I just wanted to let you know that you have really made a difference. I now come to class, excited to get up in front and share my ideas. Your approach helped me to gain confidence in myself and I wanted to thank you.”

I was stunned. Chris and I continued to talk for several minutes, until another classmate of his turned to me and said, “See, I told you, you were awesome.” As the two of them left, I stood there in happy tears. Never did I expect that in my first semester, I could have the opportunity to have that kind of an impact on a student. Nor, did I expect they would ever share that with me.

That moment provided me with the professional validation that I, as an instructor, was upholding the College mission to not only provide high quality education, but to help my students develop life skills that are necessary to enrich and support themselves. But on a personal level, that moment was a gift. One that I shall cherish as I continue my own professional journey.