Praying At The Overhead

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall a...

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall at Princeton University.) © 2005 Joseph Barillari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jason strides into the Large Group Instruction room, a box full of syllabi under his left arm while he carries his laptop case in his right hand. His brown hair is thinning and turning white in places and the forty-five minutes he spends at the campus gym before lunch is not quite enough to fight off the paunch on his mid section.

Still there is a spring in his step as his new students sluggishly slip into their seats in the amphitheater like room. Each year, since the first year he was ABD he has told himself that he will not make any judgments about his students, but it is hard to not recognize certain types after twenty-four years teaching Political Science.

Right off he notices the students in the front row: the dozen above average students trying to make an impression and the two or three truly exceptional ones that want to be in the thick of it. Two rows back are the good students with little to no self-esteem. He will have to work hard to pull them out of their shells. After that are the “just get me through the semester” students, followed by the “mom and dad want me here”s. He notes them, but does not judge. After four years it will be entirely likely that one or two from the front and back rows will trade places.

This class is an easy one: American Political System. They all likely have opinions already tucked neatly into their minds and will defend them rigorously. He spots a freshman girl, not too shy, not too open in the second row and recruits her to pass out the syllabi. Quietly she does so as he hooks his computer up to the overhead projector, ready to show them what is ahead.

He lives for this, even after two decades. Some of his peers think he is too enthusiastic, too romantic, but he sees this as important work. He hesitates to use the word “sacred” but it is the closest that comes to his love of teaching. He shapes young minds, and therefore the future. Even if he is wrong, for him there is no greater thrill than watching a “Eureka!” moment in a student’s eyes. He turns on the projector, displaying an image of the Declaration of Independence (give them an easy first day he tells himself) and putting on his bifocals asks “who can tell me what this is?”

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