Some Advice for the Journey – Teachers Care

When I was studying to be a nurse I sometimes thought that teachers either did not care or did not understand. It was not until I was out of college for a few years that I realized they all cared. They cared so deeply that they were willing to come back semester after semester knowing that the new group of students would have similar complaints to the last group. The complaints are frequently about not being able to find the exact answer in the textbook, having to read too much, having too much work, or not finding the presentations exciting though I’m quite unsure how any of us ever thought a professor was going to make the Kreb’s Cycle exciting.

Looking back, I’m fairly certain that there were times when I was ready to give up that the person that cared most about my success was my teacher.  Some care because they see in you what you cannot see in yourself. Others care because they know if they can only get you over this hump you will be fine. Then there are those that care because if you fail they consider it their failure. Whatever the reason, looking back I never had a teacher that did not care about my success.

Caring does not mean that a professor will turn a blind eye to cheating, or pass you when you fail or stop pushing you just because you cry. As faculty members, we are not always good at letting a student know how much we care about them as individuals and as future nurses. As teachers and students, we can do more to understand each other.

HINT: Crying doesn’t work on other women. We all know what the tears mean. You are mad as hell and can’t say out loud what you are thinking so those words stream down your face.

Teaching feels like a gift from heaven. I cherish the opportunity to share my life and knowledge with others and am forever grateful when they share theirs with me. Each day I have wonderful opportunities to interact with future nurses and seasoned professionals. Sometimes I remember the rules I set for myself and other times I fail. Most days it is a mix of success and failure, but there is never a day I do not care.

Here are a few of my ground rules. I hope one day to master them.

1. Take the time to listen with your heart wide open.

Sometimes we are in a hurry and do not feel we have the time to sit and listen to the same story we have heard every semester. We too easily forget that the story is not new to us, but it is new to this impressionable young person that desperately wants to be a nurse. When a student asks to talk to us we should make the time and we should always encourage students to ask. Will it be the end of the world if we are late to a faculty meeting or another curriculum revision workgroup?

2. It is not necessary to offer advice

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something
to solve my problem,
you have failed me,
strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get
you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham
in the same newspaper.
And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering,
but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact
that I feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational,
then I can stop trying to convince
you and get about this business
of understanding what’s behind
this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are
obvious and I don’t need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when
we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,
for some people – because God is mute,
and he doesn’t give advice or try
to fix things.
God just listens and lets you work
it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn – and I will listen to you.

–Author Unknown

3. It is never necessary to criticize another person to help the one in front of you

Anyone that has taught for any period of time has heard a student tell a horror story of a bad lecture, unclear assignment, or poor classroom management. It should never be the case that one teacher says something bad about another teacher to a student. It is much better to try and get the student to speak directly to the teacher. If that does not work then it is better to go yourself. You will build trust and respect. You might even help avoid a bigger issue down the road.

4. Teaching well must be a priority.

The purpose of the university is primarily creating prepared minds. Our research and service help enhance the education, but teaching is is why most universities exist. Just as strong teaching can enhance one’s research abilities, research provides fresh ideas for the classroom. All faculty must learn to balance the priorities, but students should never be shortchanged because of one’s research or service. Students must remain the center of the university.

5. Southern hospitality helps create a positive environment.

Teachers and students are both human beings. When they are upset or stressed they need to feel welcome in your office. That is often as easy as a cup of coffee, a cookie, or a candy jar. Keep your door open and keep the coffee, cookies, and candy flowing.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thes 5:11)

 

 


The Spirit of Higher Education Should be Equality

Equality (1)

Once a month I speak with a spiritual director. Today he was rather insistent that I am where I am supposed to be and am her for a reason. This came after a discussion of a need to see the mission as greater than any one individual and the need for a spirit of unity within any organization.

I am opposed to class systems that separate people. The separation in our culture is largely based on wealth, occupation, social network, and education status. While wealth in the United States is either earned or inherited and social networks are frequently associated with birth into a community, education should be available to all.  If one is so fortunate to be born with the necessary intelligence to pursue a university education, the person should not be treated unequally in any educational institution. We know that private schools sometimes offer preferential treatment for those who have parents that are alumni or sufficient wealth to influence the admissions process. This should never be the case in public institutions. It is the role of a public institution to eliminate even the perception of bias. Once enrolled it is the responsibility of the professors and leadership – legal, ethical, and moral – to ensure that system is equitable.

Allowing inequality in education, and establishing a system that rewards the privileged increases the likelihood that class bias is carried into our general society and perpetuated by graduates who had it reinforced in school.

Universities should be doing all possible to educate the whole person. Let us endeavor to educate students in a manner that demonstrates that God-given gifts do no justify preferential treatment.  By our actions, we should model our espoused values and implement policies and practices that make us stronger as a whole by respecting the individual and honoring equality.

Perhaps we lost our way when we forgot that the heart of leadership lies in the hearts of leaders. We fooled ourselves, thinking that sheer bravado or sophisticated analytic techniques could respond to our deepest concerns. We lost touch with our most precious gift-our spirit. To recapture spirit, we need to relearn how to lead with soul. How to breathe new zest and buoyancy into life. How to reinvigorate the family as a sanctuary where people can grow, develop, and find love. How to reinfuse the workplace with vigor and elan. Leading with soul returns us to ancient spiritual basics reclaiming the enduring human capacity that gives our lives passion and purpose [Bolman and Deal, 1995, p. 21 in Arthur W. Chickering;Jon C. Dalton;Liesa Stamm. Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education (pp. 35-36). Kindle Edition].


Is God Hidden or Is God Hiding

Walking around the University of Missouri – St. Louis South campus the signs of faith that once filled the buildings is hidden in plain sight. Whether one looks straight ahead, walks with downcast eyes, or looks up to the heavens there are ever-present symbols of faith in God. IMG_0524IMG_0534And yet, God is largely absent from public universities with the exception of clubs and religious studies classes.

The evidence of the absence is not hidden. It is visible in mass shootings on campuses across the nation, sexual assaults, and deaths from hazing, drugs, and alcohol. It is seen in the decreased funding to universities, the increased tuitions, and the absence of many faculty members from campuses. When we were sleeping, or maybe when we were too occupied with endless war to notice, the elected officials stopped supporting students, faculties, and infrastructures and quietly pushed the higher education system away from developing well-rounded adults ready to make society better. The higher calling is now graduate’s earnings.

It was once said that when we teach we reflect the condition of our souls. Does the lack of governmental support for higher education and the push to measure success by earnings reflect the condition of our National soul? We should be asking how it will impact generations to come? When teaching, ministry, the Peace Corps, Doctors without Boarders, and all manner of social service by graduates drive down the ratings of a university we are loudly proclaiming wealth as our measure of success and ignoring the dangers of focusing solely on financial gain.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. KJV Matthew 19:24

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The UMSL Grotto

Is God hidden on our campuses or is God hiding from us? Maybe we should ask ourselves if our hearts and our faith are as empty as the grotto.

I hope the day will come when we do not hide God behind locked doors nor deny access to sacred spaces and by so doing proclaim that the spiritual lives of students are secondary. Sadly, it isn’t just public schools that lock the doors, private schools do the same. These are two of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen and yet both are locked. One is public and the other a private Catholic university. No student can go in during the day to pray, or meditate, or sit in silence. Our souls are reflected not only in what we teach, but what we hide.IMG_1093IMG_0336