There’s a nip in the air down here in south Georgia. It’s delightful. As I went out walking along the dark streets this morning, I didn’t have to think about wading through the humidity, inhaling the gnats, or waving off attacking mosquitoes. I probably wouldn’t have noticed them anyway because for the last week I have been struggling with another challenging assignment those “annoying” and “inquisitive” first year students gave me.
I had met them in the Union a week ago Friday with my answer to their question about what an education boils down to. I have to say that they were impressed. We talked about it. I have to admit that I was feeling quite pleased with myself. They thought that they had caught me, but I had wiggled out of their trap. Then, from out of the blue, just as we were getting up from the table to go to our classes, one of the students impishly said, “I’ll give you an “A” on this assignment. But, you’re not finished. Here’s the next one: ‘If that’s what you think an education boils down to, then tell us what do you think being a teacher boils down to.’ I’ll be kind. You can use TWO sentences this time. No more. It’s due in a week, Friday at 10:00 a.m.”
“Damn,” I said to them as I froze half way out of my chair and bit so hard on the stick to the tootsie pop I was sucking that I nearly sheared it in half. “Who’s the professor at this table.”
With a mischievous smile appearing on her face, she replied, “Today and here, I am.”
“Do you all stay up at night plotting these things,” I asked in mock anger.
The only reply was, “One week.”
For this past week I could be seen walking through the halls and on campus muttering, mumbling, and quietly cursing to myself. On occasions that I don’t think were accidental, I’d bump into one of the students to whom I was to report. “How’s your answer coming?” they’d jokingly ask. Then, like little tormenting gnomes joyfully poking my legs with sharp pitchforks, they’d remind me, “Just four more days” or “Just three days to go.” Last Thursday, I seemed to have bumped into all five who reminded me, “See ya tomorrow morning.” At those moments, I think I’d preferred the mosquitoes to those “pests.”
Well, last Friday came and I didn’t have an answer. I had to beg for an extension. I bribed them each with a tootsie pop, an orange tootsie pop!. “Ok,” Mary sighed, “You have until Monday morning. But it will cost you a five point reduction on your grade, and a bag of tootsie pops.”
“And if I can’t come up with an answer,” I fearfully asked.
“A quarter’s supply of tootsie pops for each of us,” she replied without missing a beat.
“Thanks for being so understanding,” I muttered in simulated annoyance.
I think it was all planned out, and I think they had caught me. So did I.
Well, I could think of little else this weekend. After all, there was a lot at stake. This morning, in the sharp, dark air I think I’ve finally got it. This is my answer:
True teachers cannot be idols because idols
only encourage others to act and think like
them. True teachers are heroes because heroes
give of themselves so that others can be
encouraged to become themselves.
Think I passed this assignment? We’ll see. I report this morning to the Union. Say a prayer.
Make it a good day.