Years ago, prior to teaching, I worked as a student affairs professional. You ask, “What is a student affairs professional?” Basically, everyone who isn’t a professor or administrative support at a college or university is a “student affairs professional”. Coaches, academic advisors, residence hall staff, student life advisors, and on and on. My goal as a member of this profession was simple- support and challenge college students through programming, leadership, individual conversations and group events. I loved it, but towards the end, I was frustrated. I felt unsupported by my boss. I felt frustrated with the limitations of my job as it was being described to me. I wasn’t doing what I wanted. It was a nuanced decision with a lot of mitigating circumstances, but one day, after many days, weeks and months of emotional days, anger, tears and angst (sounds dramatic, huh)…I just quit. No safety net. I just jumped.
My husband was relieved. My dad was concerned (Understatement). My brother and sister-in-law were supportive. My friends were of the mixed nut variety. With the benefit of hindsight, I know that none of it mattered because I felt free.
I needed to figure out the next step. It took some months and a few failed ideas before I ended up falling into teaching. The truth is, I started freaking out that I had screwed up. I was happy, but happiness doesn’t bring home the bacon. I began stalking college jobs sites and found an open teaching position in the Developmental Studies Department at a local community college. The requirements were vague, so I applied- what could it hurt? After a few interviews, I was hired. I began that first semester teaching Study Skills and Developmental Reading.
I was scared shitless. I had teaching experience, public speaking experience, and experience with the content comprising my course. But I had not been an actual “teacher” before. I walked into that first classroom with a whole family of Monarch butterflies in my stomach. And I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Sure- there are moments, there are students, there are days that are frustrating. But I love teaching. Spending the time getting to know my students and utilizing my student affairs training to encourage more than just academic development in my classroom has been incredibly fulfilling.
Fast-forward 6 years later and I’m still teaching. I have transitioned between subjects and institutions, but the passion remains. I strive for lessons that transcend the modern student’s desire to check Twitter or get to the next level of Bejeweled. I struggle (within confines of my young family) to carve out time to grade all of the papers, discussion boards, quizzes and in-class reflections. Even with all the headaches and challenges, I love it. I have a ball. And I’m good at it! It feels amazing to love what you do and feel confident about it.
As if the universe conspired in how I was reflecting on my work this past week, I received my student evaluations from last semester yesterday. This warm fuzzy is going directly into the rainy day folder…
“I would like to say that Professor Stowens is one of the best teachers I have ever had. She encompasses all that an educator should possess as an effective teacher. She is not only very knowledgable in her field, she expresses that knowledge in a way that gets through to her students with her passion, humor and desire to educate about these very important topics of society. My hopes are that WU values her employment.” -student
Then, because the universe has a sense of humor…came this one:
“She gives dumb tests and keeps us for the whole class [period].” – other student
…so, there’s work to be done. I love this job.