Today Montreal college students start their fall semester and the halls are filled with energy and questions as new students search for their classrooms and people to help them out. The difference is remarkable and really reminds me of the excitement of new beginnings that those of us in the Northern hemisphere associate with the fall. As much as I experience it while standing in the sidelines, I have to admit that the school geek that I am, longs to start a new course, pencils and clean notebooks in hand.
Once upon a time, I loathed school (actually twice upon a time) and couldn't wait to leave and find work, make money and stop having to do homework. Now I sort of crave it again but realize that now is not the right time to return to the classroom, be it as a teacher or as a student.
Which brings me to another realization today: I'm not teaching this fall, something that fills me with relief and sadness at the same time. I don't know if I'm a good teacher or not, sometimes I cross the line between professionalism and privacy with my students, and sometimes I'm just tired and don't give my students the energy and preparation they deserve (I'm sure I'm not alone in this), but be that as it may, I'm going to miss my students this semester. Because for all that I dislike marking, working with students is something that I love doing. I love preparing a course that they've enjoyed and I love hearing their responses because even though sometimes I feel disheartened by their lack of originality (I've heard it all before...), other times I am awestruck by their creativity, energy and humanity.
This might sound corny, but as much as people can drive me nuts, my students fill me with love and wonder. Not because I love them in any individual way (hell, most of the time I hardly know them) but because I love watching them work through their discoveries and seeing them grow and learn new ideas. In many ways though, because I hardly know them, I get to see what's best in them (without all the trappings that really knowing someone tends to impose on our perceptions of them). It's really an amazing gift that, when I remember to step back and appreciate it, is just fantastic and makes me think that teaching truly is, if you can put up with the drawbacks, one of the best professions. But trust me, despite the fact that I'm waxing sentimental right now, I am not unaware of the many drawbacks of the field.