Enthusiasm For Teaching

emerson_quote_enthusiasmAfter correcting 714 class work assignments, 306 homework assignments, 204 quizzes, and 306 twelve-page exams, one of my classes came to an end last week. One of the nicest aspects, beyond the actual teaching and getting to know my students, was reading the comments that were left on my evaluation forms. Under “professor’s strengths”, the most frequently listed item was my “enthusiasm for teaching”.

This really made me stop and think. I know that I really enjoy teaching. While I always try to focus in on the good, the fact of the matter is that there are many challenges that I encounter on a continual basis.  While my students are taking a break, and my hands start tightening up and curling inwards, I wonder how I am going to be able to write on the board when class resumes.  When it feels like I can’t stand on my feet for one more minute, I try to figure out how I can give my ankles a rest, and still walk around the classroom. And when my entire evening is consumed with a flare, I try to find a solution that allows me to both prepare the following day’s class while still getting enough sleep during the night.

So it was nice to see that what stood out to my students was my “enthusiasm for teaching” and not the personal struggles that I face on a daily basis. All too often, it can feel like my rheumatoid arthritis defines who I am. I continue to learn that this need not necessarily be the case. While my chronic illness is certainly a major factor in my life, and demands a lot of time and attention, it’s certainly not what I am all about.

This week I started a new class. I have only a fraction of the students that were in my last class. This new class is about half as short, and starts fifteen minutes earlier in the morning. Overall, I should be in an easier place than where I was just a week ago…but with the constantly shifting tide of rheumatoid arthritis, I continue to learn to accept that things are rarely what they “should” be.

When I woke up this morning, I was unable to move my feet. I had no idea how I was going to get out of bed and get ready, much less make the half hour trip to campus and teach for more than two hours. I decided not to look that far ahead into the future. All I needed to do was take the next step…and then take the next step, and so on. Eventually, I took my long morning bath. In addition to pulling out a pair of socks, I also pulled out my ankle braces. I swapped my dress shoes for my more comfortable sneakers. I finished getting ready, and I left the house.

Did the pain persist? Most definitely. But I arrived on campus, and started my class. I sat down and rested my feet as I showed my students a short video. Within an hour, I noticed that the pain was subsiding. We took a five-minute break, and I sat down and rested my feet some more. An hour later, when class ended, the pain in my ankles was almost completely gone.

“Enthusiasm for teaching.” I’m beginning to realize that it’s not just good for my students, but that it’s also having a beneficial effect on this one professor, in particular.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

12 Comments
12 comments
  1. Laurie says:

    Excellent feedback!!! I just can’t imagine grading all those tests and papers! You are now an educational superhero!

  2. Lana says:

    This is so wonderful RA Guy and I was in tears towards the ends. It is good to hear that you make a difference when you feel like you physically can’t. I know that feeling because I am constantly reminded through my advocacy work. It is hard to feel like you can make a difference when your body won’t cooperate, but it is nice to know that you do.

  3. Cathy says:

    Hi RA Guy,
    I can totally relate to this post. This quad I am teaching a four hour course on Tuesday/Thursday morning and then return for another two hour class in the evening. There have been times in the past that I have had to literally use my opposite arm to lift my writing arm up to the board, times that I finally had to sit and then worried I wouldn’t get back up without making awful noises, and days that I have stood at the overhead a little too long and my knees stiffened up and I wondered how I would graciously walk away. Many nights when the clock said it was time to go home I wondered how I would make it to my car. But, I think somehow the enthusiasm of being with our students gets us through the tough times and we do okay. (Of course, at night the need to get to bed carries me to my car).

    You are doing something that is making a difference and I think that is therapy in itself. Yay for you that your students see you are so much more than RA.

    As always, sending your healing thoughts. ~Cathy

  4. RA Guy's Mom says:

    “Go going, son!”…and “way to go!’ I’ve always said that our youth need good teachers–so glad my son of one of them! You are influencing so many different lives not only through your blog, but now also through your classes. Love you lots, Mom

  5. Patrice says:

    Wow! You are truly inspirational. I greatly admire what you do and how you do it. I don’t think I could hold it together nearly as well as you do. We all have a choice when we wake up we can give our day over to the pain, or we can muster up the strength and courage to live our lives in spite of it. You are a consistant example of living in spite of RA. Excellent post as always.

  6. stitchingforserenity says:

    I am inspired by post. Rough days me see beauty in the small things as opposed to larger dreams I keep safely tucked away for better days. Walk on. Hugs. Tammy

  7. Squirrel says:

    You remind me so much of a close friend with RA, he has the same amazing strong will and positive attitude as you. I have a lot to learn from you both, thanks for this post.

  8. Sue says:

    “We are born owning many qualities,some we may never know we possess. It all depends what kind of run God gives you” (Colleen McCullough). We have an extra challenging run, because of an extra special gene that can turn the most optimistic run into a less than graceful shuffle. BUT: it’s a slow and serene pace,so that we can stop and smell the flowers.

  9. Terry says:

    When you do a good job it shows. Nothing like your students validating what you already know though. I have many of the mornings you wrote about. Somehow its more painful reading about a fellow RAer going through it than it is for myself to endure one of these mornings.

  10. Buttonfingers says:

    Inspirational. Thank you so much for renewing my enthusiasm for teaching. What a wonderful, privileged profession.

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