This has been a week of reflection. As one of my colleagues put it, working in higher education creates a constant cycle of whiplash: the semesters begin and then are over. You run with your hair on fire, especially in the last couple of weeks, only to turn around to nothing. Well, your own projects, of course, that you pick up where you left off, usually when it was another season altogether. But the sudden end always takes me by surprise, even having been through this cycle so many times.
Why do we do what we do?
This question followed me over the past two weeks, which were frenetic in both intensity and pace. For several reasons. First, there are major changes coming to our institution, one that I love and one that I try to make better every single day I am on campus, and even when I am off. It's an uncertain time, but I've been thinking a lot about why I do what I do, personally. But I am also thinking: why does our college do what it does as we consider changing programs.
To me, my answer to the question is the students. And learning. And more recently, mentoring. Helping. My focus has changed a lot in the time that I have been teaching, which is nearly 20 years. I like to think that I was always focused on students, but I do so now in a different way. I focus more on engaging them with active learning (which I have written about often here; see list of topics at right). More often now, I listen to them. In doing so I sometimes find their questions difficult. And often, I can't answer them.
Take my visit with a student last week. I still can't stop thinking about it. His question stopped me in my tracks, because I had no answer for him. I could not help him. Not anymore.
Because his question was, "What will make me happy, Doc?" He explained that he always thought it would be business and making money; those would be the keys to his happiness. But now, he was not so sure. All I could say to him was what I know for sure: he will figure it out, because he's bright, reflective, and perceptive. He's turning some of that perception on to himself, which means, that he will figure it out. He will figure out why he does what he does.
So, yes, I know why I do what I do. Yet, the bittersweetness of it hit me like that end of semester tsunami always does: three students that I helped out of several pickles over the past two years or so are successfully done. They'll gradate in May. They are off to find their way in the world. I know my college has given them the foundation to do great things and be successful.
And my wish for them is that they figure out why they do what they do.