Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ends & Beginnings

I had my final classes Thursday & Friday. This means final exams are Monday & Tuesday. (Note: I join my students in saying a great big "aargh!" to final exams. Of course, to me they're just a hassle; to students, they're just a smidge more pressure-packed...; ) )

Thus, I'm in one of the best parts of my job and one of the worst.

Best: I get to ship some students out of my orbit into other classes/the real world.
Worst: I have to ship some students out of my orbit into other classes/the real world.

(I'll explain...)

Among the many uber-cool things about being a professor, one of the more awesome, wonderful aspects of the gig is connection with and interaction with students. As one who is called to ministry, I don't have to search very far before ministry arrives in my job. And since WCU is a small school, I get to connect beyond "were you really in my class?" Conversations with students this term have covered marriage, dating, life after marriage, kids, money management, politics/philosophy, voting, civil rights, church, career, grad school, professional certifications, hunting, the wedding ceremony itself, music,....You can't buy that sort of impact opportunity! I love it. Also, I really enjoy shipping folks out hopefully knowing a bit of finance & economics, and watching careers unfold for them. Maybe even helping with a job here & there.

On the other hand, and not surprising from the paragraph above, I get bummed when a students are set free from my orbit. That means the conversations become less frequent, and the interaction slips away. The "friend" aspect of student-professor interaction becomes the only one, which is nice. However, at the same time, that aspect drifts away as they're not around so much. My Dad was emotional & didn't like to leave; that gene came to me in spades. So, I do not enjoy the "leaving" aspect of the end of a term. One of my classes consisted almost entirely of students that were taking their 3rd class from me (bless their hearts...). *best Ron White delivery* "We've met." It's my hope and expectation that I'll still be in touch w/ some of that group years from now.

Plus, the week after this coming one, I'll have to start learning a new batch of names. There's something I'm not good at, to my great shame. Once I learn them, they stick, but they don't seem to get into the hard drive too rapidly. (I'm thinking my brain is still running DOS in a Vista/Mac world...)

On the other hand, when those new classes arrive in my room, I'll have yet another opportunity to connect with a batch of (mostly!) bright, energetic young folks. I love the "new start" aspect of the professor gig. In a trimester schedule like ours, I get to experience that new start 4 times a year!

I LOVE my job! That call to ministry thing? It was operational when I was in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade. And it is operational now as an econ/finance professor. I get to connect with folks who are in the process of nailing down 3 fairly significant life decisions: (a) who I want to spend the rest of my life with, (b) what I'll do for a living, and (c) the values by which I'll live. (Other than that, age 18-24 is not that big of a deal...*rimshot*) I'm delighted to be a small part of that process. And I'm delighted that James Madaris has some good ones in his path up there in Oxford. And I'm already praying for Anne Madaris to sit under some great, godly mentors next year.

Professors get a bad rap frequently, though I admit that the rap is often well-deserved. However, in the midst of all of the negative stuff about professors, there are so very many who sense a genuine calling to the profession to teach and mentor and equip young folks. And who approach the job out of a Christian commitment and worldview.

Pray for your kids/grandkids/friends/nieces/nephews to encounter some of those. It could be life-changing (for the good).

I'll close with this: know why I went to grad school in the first place? Two different undergrad professors encouraged me to do so. Know why I stayed for a Ph.D.? A professor in my master's program encouraged me to do so. Randy Pausch in his excellent "last lecture" before he died of cancer spoke of the sheer joy of helping others fulfill their childhood dreams. There are not many jobs that enable that very often; being a professor is one such job.

OK, I'm off to edit my final exams for next week...

Proverbs 9:10


Judi McQueen said...

You also had an impact on a middle aged grad student. Keep doing well what you're doing right.

Stephanie said...

You know, just TODAY I was talking with someone about all the LIBERAL professor types out there and I immediately thought of you! HA. Not that you are liberal, but I thought of how wonderful it is that you are in the profession you are in and how you are making a HUGE difference on so many lives. In 1st grade S.S. today we talked about being saying "thank you" to others and so tonight, Dr. Madaris, I want to say THANK YOU for being a light in a very dark world! Press on!

DeeDee said...

Mike..after working in the Bookstore at WCC for 5.5 yrs I have to agree w/u!

It is a ministry being available to the students, helping some of them cope w/life, (i.e. a miscarriage and unwed, becoming a father for the 2nd time, unwed...this guy called me from Mexico after graduation where he played international Bball. ...talking politics to students, and general life)

That was one part of my life that I will always remember as being fulfilling. You my friend, are in a good place and I know you are making a difference to these students.

Joy, Debi O.