College, Faith, and All the Things
College campuses feel like home to me – I walk those sidewalks a lot. In high school I attended to local community and technical college for dual credit class (earning college and high school credits at the same time). I transferred to a 4-year private Baptist college and lived on campus until graduation. Next, a 4-year public to finish up school with a Masters and a Doctoral degree (also called a terminal degree…as in, “honey, you really can’t go to school anymore”). Now, as a college professor I teach on all of those same campuses and met so many different students. Regardless of the campus, we can see so much in common as the students walking into the classrooms and dorm rooms are juggling so many of the same dreams and burdens.
I revealed some things about me – what about you? Who were you 10-years ago? Were you an excitable 3rd grader, always ready for the last bell to ring so you could head home and play? Were you 19 heading into your second year of college, thankful to live past the freshman year but terrified to be a year closer to graduating and getting a real job?
10-years ago, I walked onto my home-away-from-home campus for the final semester and blindly kept moving towards one goal – to teach college students on one specific college campus. At the age of 20, I knew the what and where of my future, but wildly ignored if it was a plausible. I only would recognize it as my dream – a plan I could follow – so I did.
Now at 30 (almost 31), I teach students on the one specific campus and have for the last nine years. I don’t teach math, so I don’t really know where to start on figuring out what are the odds, but seriously – what are the odds? Teaching comes with limited benefits. Teaching for a community and technical college puts my pay below most public school teachers with the same years of experience and our retirement system in Kentucky currently contains more chaos than comfort. Nevertheless, each new semester I meet approximately 200 new students and the real joy for being on campus comes to life.
I struggled with teaching the first few years. It seemed wrong to separate the faith part of my life for the sake of a public classroom. Not in the sense of teaching one specific faith, but when in conversations with students or facilitating discussion, answering their questions felt more like walking through a field of explosives waiting to sue me than a valuable learning moment to share potentially differing perspectives. Teaching topics such as persuasive speaking, marriage, deception, values, and worldviews… it isn’t as if the questions won’t arise and as a 21 year-old faculty member, navigating the separation while remaining authentic became an ultimate focus for my personal teaching style.
Ten years ago I never thought I would include my faith in my teaching strategies, mostly because I clearly did not want to give the plan too much thought for lack of assurances. But the world has spoken very loud and clearly – teachers work in a dangerous environment, walk carefully. The world says, “walk carefully” and scripture tells us to “speak boldly.” We don’t get to walk carefully and speak boldly, so there would need to be a choice.
The shift created a culture in the classroom where I hear about students academic achievements, personal struggles, and invest in real conversations about life outside of the classroom. For some instructors I understand, this is not what you signed up for – you signed up for teaching people things and calling it a day. I appreciate those boundaries. My path to teaching one specific discipline at one specific school with odds that seem very much not in my favor lead me to stand in a calling more than a career. The calling has less to do with the classroom and more to do with the opportunity to meet college-aged folk and surround them with Jesus, even if they don’t know his name.
The point. Students, there are teachers on your college campus praying for you and who would be thrilled to be an active member of your life – to mentor you academically and in your faith.
Teachers, we can find space in the margins to serve our students directly and indirectly with the fruit of our faith.
Let’s learn together.