Learning to Teach or Teaching to Learn?

Kel Arlinghaus
Lead Professional Tutor, The Learning Commons

There are many titles that I could adopt in an academic setting: tutor, teacher, educator, mentor, cheerleader, and even friend. However, there is one identity that I have come to realize defines me more than any of these. Ultimately, like my students I am and will always be a learner. I learned this lesson very early in my career at Lansing Community College from one of the first students I worked with. This student taught me about empathy, patience, and ultimately how to learn from others

First of all, I would like to say that I have been at Lansing Community College for four years now. I had taught first-year college students previously, but before coming to LCC I had no experience with the community college student and just how different of a demographic they are. It is very rewarding to be able to work with these students on a day-to-day basis and it has helped ground me in the importance of education for success in life.

One particular person I worked with was a student taking Human Physiology, a difficult course for most students. English was not this student’s first language, nor their second, but they were dedicated to pursuing a career as a nurse.  This student was determined that they wanted to work in the healthcare field. Similarly, I was determined to help them despite me doubting my abilities to effectively communicate and aid them in the best way possible.

Let’s just say I learned a lot about myself, education, my field, and most importantly this student’s life and goals. I took some time to introspectively look at the field of science and just how language-heavy it can be. Not only did this student have a language barrier in her courses, but they were also trying to learn a whole new set of vocabulary related to the course. I worked with this student every day and we not only overcame this barrier in her physiology course, but also all of her other science perquisites as well. It was a real pleasure for me to watch this student develop skills in language, writing, critical thinking, and how to be a student. As much as I loved working with this student, it was great for me to see them become an independent learner by the end of their LCC career. During their last semester at LCC they would come in and only ask a few questions from me before returning to working on their own.

In conclusion, I still am and will always be a learner. My students educate me just as much as I educate them. Whether it is informing my educational practices, developing new ways or techniques to explain a topic in the sciences, new cultures and ideas I haven’t been exposed to, or even myself and who I am as a person. I continue to keep an open mind and continue on this educational journey each and every day with my students. I’d like to thank the student I worked with years ago for helping me realize this and shaping me not only as a teacher, but as a learner.