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Why I Go to Class Early

FC Missional Moment: Voices from the Commons

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** Why I go to class early
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Last semester, a student in my advanced writing course asked me a strange question. This was an older student in his late twenties who, by the time he walked into my classroom, had already served as a soldier in Afghanistan and in his free time had traveled to places like Finland and Zimbabwe.

His strange question came on the day I was teaching on their authority to write. I always stand up front and insist, “You have something to say that no one else can say! Write it today! I will help you!”

This former soldier who had just written about lions in Zimbabwe interrupts me and asks, “Dr. H, we want to know why you come to class so early.”

I didn’t know how to respond.

He continued, “No, really. Why do you get here so early? My other professors come late and act like they don’t want to be there at all. Why do you come so early?”

** Why do you come so early?”
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I look down onto my desk and then out the window.

I’m getting embarrassed.

I remember my pedagogy training and how our instructor advised us to come on time or a bit late because otherwise you’ll just be sitting there awkwardly with students staring at you. Never go early. You’ll have nothing to say to each other. It’s painful. Don’t go early.

** I want to be with you
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“Well,” I begin, but then pause for a minute.

How can I tell them the truth that I come early because I’ve missed them, that I can’t wait to hear about their day, that I’ve been thinking about them all morning, and that I love them?
How can I reveal that I’ve spent all week praying about their addictions, their losses, their fears, and their dreams? Teaching memoir writing at the college level means you read some heartbreaking stories.

“Well, it’s because I want to be with you,” I finally stammer and reposition my hair tie and take my glasses off. “I really want to be with you.”

The students sit there in silence, mouths hanging open in astonishment.

“What now? Are you going to tell us you actually
like grading our stuff?” the soldier asks, smiling ear to ear.

We all laugh about it together. But then I use the conversation as a teaching moment.

** Love of subject, love of student
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I tell them that the secret to being a great professor is this: love of subject, love of student. In their future careers, if they love their work and love the people around them, they’ll always find meaning and passion in it.

I go early to class because there’s no place I’d rather be, sitting there with them, insisting on their use of strong verbs and varied sentence patterns. The love of writing comes naturally to me—like God decided to put in me a fascination with grammar books and punctuation and language’s rhythms.

The love of students, however, is something God had to grow in me.

** Christ’s Love Compels Me
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In those early years of being a PhD student at the University of Michigan, Jesus invited me into a great calling. Through my involvement with a Cru ministry, I remember meditating on 2 Corinthians and how God wants to use me “to spread the knowledge of Christ like a sweet perfume,” and how “Christ’s love for me compels me.” I read how God had given me a great charge to represent Christ’s love to the world.

And when I read a few verses later “we are Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making an appeal through us,” I realized that this wasn’t just happening somewhere in East Asia or just in church; this was happening through me in my classroom. This was happening through me in my writing. This was happening through me in my seminars and in department meetings. I could let the love of Jesus supernaturally flow through me to other people. I could “live a life of love” as described in Ephesians 5.

And so today, as I allow God to love people through me, I excitedly come early to class with my teaching bag of stacks of essays, grading pens, chalk, lists of vivid verbs, my handout on semicolons, a new assignment for the next paper, and with a God-given love for my students.

–Heather Holleman, Penn State

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“If we want to grow as teachers — we must do something alien to academic culture: we must talk to each other about our inner lives — risky stuff in a profession that fears the personal and seeks safety in the technical, the distant, the abstract.”
― Parker J. Palmer (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/55813.Parker_J_Palmer)

http://www.amazon.com/Seated-Christ-Living-Culture-Comparison/dp/0802413439/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441047116&sr=8-1&keywords=heather+hollemanCheck out Heather’s new book: “Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison” (http://www.amazon.com/Seated-Christ-Living-Culture-Comparison/dp/0802413439/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441047116&sr=8-1&keywords=heather+holleman)

Scripture says that God’s beloved are seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph. 2:6), treasured by Him and given a place at His table. Heather Holleman unveils what this means for us. It means we walk out on the fight for acceptance. We quit measuring ourselves to others.We leap free from cycles of shame.

________________

U (https://www.facultycommons.com/to-love-and-good-works/) pcoming FCMMs from Heather:
Grace-infused Teaching
Building Community in my Classrooms
Gospel Conversations
Why are you so happy?
Our Grace-infused Role as Faculty

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called to life of the mind

“A refreshing reminder that cultivating our thought life and scholarship can only be done when we also keep in touch with the Lord.  These musings from an experienced Christian leader will be solid food for Christian scholars everywhere.”–Darrell Bock.  An excellent resource for faculty communities wrestling with the challenges of cultivating a combination of “epistemic humility” and “epistemic hope.”

 

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