I became a teacher 35 years ago, because I was independent and did not want to have to answer to a boss all day long (I had a principal to answer too, but I only saw him once a week). I liked being in control of my surroundings. That was 35 years ago and today I see the world completely differently. I love 82% of being a teacher (grading and administrative duties make up the other 18%), but it is not the control over my life that I thought was important back them. It is the feeling I get when the light bulb goes off in one of my students and I can see that “they get it”—that’s what keeps me teaching. In my department I am know for being a hard and demanding teacher, but my goal is really to help prepare my students to be not only good employees, but to good people as well. I want them to care about the quality of work they do, and also the way they serve their family and the community. I hear complaints from my current students each semester about the amount of work they have to do in my class compared to others, but the comments I hear from graduates two, three or five years out encourages me to keep my standards high. When I see them out at an industry trade event after graduation and they remember a lesson or an activity from my class and say, “Now I know why you made us do that.” It helps me fight off the urge to reduce the experience in my class to make it easier to teach. If I lower my standards and what I expect, the end result is a graduate less prepared for life. I truly believe God gave me the talents to take complex thought and break them down into chunks that people can understand, but he also expects me to set an example of how to live and work in the community.
I travel a lot for my job, sometimes with students and always make a point to find time to go to church wherever we are. That is not typical when you attend conferences. Seldom do the planners of the event think about leaving the block of time open on Sunday for people to leave the conference to attend church. When I do it makes a statement and many times other will attend with me. I also travel to prison on Sunday nights when I am in town to talk with the prisoners in Oconee County Detention center, my students know this and it makes a statement to them on what I value outside of work. When the projects are due and students need help I tell them I will come in early any morning to help them, except Thursday when I have a church meeting at 7 AM. Keeping your life balanced and remembering where all your talents come from is critical and I know that an important part of my job assigned by God is to show people how to keep their life balanced and focused on overall success.