Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Starting Now

Every day I get to walk into a classroom and teach is a gift. I am fortunate to have the awesome responsibility of educating those who want to learn. I am a community college adjunct professor and it is, by far, the best thing that has ever happened to me. Tonight was an amazing night in class and I need to share it with you.

My night class consists of mostly non-traditional students who work all day and come to class at night. I do have a few younger students, but they carry their share of burdens as well. One particular student is returning to school for the first time in seventeen years. She came back to school for nursing, I believe, and this woman is a natural healer. We will call her Alexander. (I know this is a man's name, but it's my blog and I do what I want.)

Alexander has endured many losses in her life. For her first paper, she wrote about one in the context of what fitness meant to her. After reading her paper, I went to the gym. It was that good.

Tonight, I helped Alexander with the planning of her second paper and I saw something in her that someone once saw in me. Alexander is a writer and she has a hell of a story to tell. As she talked to me about her paper, I organized her thoughts on the white board. What I saw before me was the makings of a self-help book that could help millions of people cope with devastating losses. Most importantly, I saw in Alexander that she has a gift that she has been stifling and for years. Loss after loss is just shoved into the corners of her mending heart. She didn't have an out before she found it in this class.

Alexander told me that she thinks so much at night that she can't sleep. I told her to get a notebook and put it by her bed and write everything she has in the notebook when she can't sleep. I guaranteed her this would give her the most gorgeous sleep she'd ever had. I told her that writing can be the one thing she does for herself in her hectic life. I also told her to make sure I get a signed copy of her book when it's published. She laughed and thought about it. She she'd stop and get a notebook on the way home.

I spent an hour with Alexander and I am excited about her paper and about this new chapter in her life. I know she will feel so much better when she begins to write. Her words and thoughts have the power to help millions because she is so strong and resilient. I know she has the power to transform her silence into language and action. I will be there for her every step of the way. Starting now.


  1. Those are the kinds of students that make teaching worth all of the frustration. If only the classroom were filled with Alexanders!

  2. I have felt similar to both you as a teacher seeing the potential in student before they do and Alexander as a born writer on the cusp of busting out. I would have to say the feeling as a teacher was probably harder for me, because I see the difficulty and growth ahead on that path of discovery and I'm never quite sure where it will take them or whether they will blossom or wilt in the face of the challenges to come.

    Keep it up Nina, the payback is a practice in delayed gratification, but it can be sooooo very worth it. Your post expressed that reality very well.


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