Teach and Light. I’m choosing to write about both of these Discover Prompts together because in the mind of this college professor, the two are inextricably linked. Since I’m an introvert, I didn’t really choose teaching as a career. It chose me. I ended up, almost by accident, in a PhD program after completing my Masters degree in Business Administration. I intended to go into industry to use my MBA. Friends of mine were pursuing their PhD’s and….shall we say….they talked me into it. I thought I would use it to do research, perhaps for the government or a private think tank. This is the beginning of the story.
When entering the doctoral program, there were teaching and research assistantships available to my class of students. I applied for both, but there weren’t many research assistantships available. I was awarded a teaching assistantship. I had never wanted to teach! Since I was at a major university, I was being thrown into the deep end.
School started that fall. The coursework for a PhD student was very challenging. On top of that, I was assigned two undergraduate finance classes to teach. 60 students in each. I don’t remember ever being so nervous. I got through those first weeks of classes. Gradually, I began to enjoy it. My doctoral coursework consumed me at the same time. I loved what I was doing. Teaching, learning, making the best friends of my life. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, yet my life had never before, and has never since, been so rewarding.
As I relaxed in front of the classroom and started really focusing on my students, something occurred to me. When I would do a good job explaining a concept to them, I would see their eyes light up as they “got it.” That became my goal as a professor. To get my student’s eyes to light up.
As I moved through a 27-year university teaching career, some days were good and some bad. But even on the worst day, what keep me going was that light in my students’ eyes. Now retired from teaching, that’s what I miss. I believe that light is what new teachers and professors should strive for.