Yesterday, I attended my first convocation ceremony at the university. Just as I had completed my fourth year at my "new" job, the students I taught in my first year had just completed the fourth year of their degrees.
They came to me as teenagers, some as young as seventeen. I was their teacher, but they were my school: I had just come out of one of the worst years of my life to date, and I didn't know my ass from my elbow. I wasn't convinced that I should be teaching, or even if I could teach any more. You'll notice that 2007 was this blog's worst year in terms of posts, as well, which I think speaks to my frame of mind--I just don't write when I don't feel well.
As usual, though, time and experience are the best teachers. I learned so much in that first year, far more than I think the students got out of it. I learned the pleasure of teaching people who actually want to learn, and I learned the aggravation of teaching those who are only there because someone else has paid for them to be. I learned how to grade, how to explain grades in a way that seems clear and fair. I learned how to find plagiarists, which instincts to trust. I learned how to break out of my shell, how to see myself as an authority in the classroom, and how to get others to see me as an authority as well.
It is so much easier to see your own mortality through the aging and experiences of others. When I look at my students four years later, I can hardly believe the changes that some of them have gone through. Their faces are so much more mature; they are so much more confident than the little kids who came through my classroom, who were nervous about speaking in front of others and so eager to make friends. I couldn't be prouder of them, but the pleasure in their success is tinged with some sadness on my part. And so it goes...