The end of the year offers some time to review the previous year and think about teaching. I am thankful for all the students who are engaged and generally want to learn. These students fill my cup and make teaching a real blessing. I am also thankful (at times) for the students who just are not sure about the material and this entire “college” thing. These students make me work more to catch their interest and attention in the subject matter and in the discipline of Political Science. These are the students who come into my office and want to chat and I am lucky to be part of their college experience.
I am fortunate to work with students as an undergrad advisor and perhaps professional mentor. This part of my job makes me work in a more individualized role with students during my office hours or via email and I have to admit that I really enjoy it. It is great when I can tell a student that she only needs a few more courses in order to graduate. Talking to students about courses and possibilities provides us a chance to think interests and career aspirations. In these moments, I am listening, mentoring, and at times giving advice. The advice is not always what the student wants to hear.
It might seem odd, but I am also thankful for some difficult students. This also includes teaching assistants who report to me and for all intents and purposes work for me. Each of these different situations have made the next one easier, and frankly, I also do not suffer any fools anymore and am quite comfortable with saying no than I was in years past. I have found it liberating to be fair and honest with students. Surprisingly, most of the students have later thanked me for my honesty or for being firm about a deadline and my expectations.
Over the years I have continued to engage in the professional organizations in my discipline and on my campus. While it does add one more thing to do to my busy schedule, the chances to network with other instructors and administrators reminds me that I do more than teach and advise. I am also part of a community of people in academe. I find that the networking aspect seem to take place at times when I really need to nourishment and reminders. I am thankful for the conferences, caucuses, other meetings, and frankly for social media. I have made more connections on Twitter during the last 13 months, than in the previous 5 years.
Getting back to teaching, though, I have had some bright and motivated students in my class this last year and they have made me teach better. They have made me excited to walk in the classroom and discuss some new article, idea or clip of a video. These moments remind me how much I love my job. Ultimately I know that I am content with my job in higher education. It was a great year!
Janni Aragon is a Senior Instructor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. Her areas of interest are varied: Gender and Politics, Women and Technology, American Politics, Feminist Theories, Youth Politics, and Popular Culture. Most of her work attempts to connect these interests. Currently she is working on a co-edited Introduction to Women’s Studies textbook. When she has time, she blogs at http://janniaragon.wordpress.com/.