Friday, November 30, 2012

Ahoy, Mateys!!

She won’t stop staring at me. She is fixed on my face and smiling like a new parent at the nursery window. Then in HE walks. With a pirate’s hat and a sexy swagger. Who ARE these people, and what are they doing in my bookstore? I came to study, to focus on motivation and learning theory and instructional design, but all I can hear are whispers of chakras and angels and religion and spirituality. How long have you known? When did you get the message? Tell me. How can I possibly cite sources and support my thoughts when a good eavesdropping is to be had?!

There are two tables pulled together, a witch’s hat in the middle. The group is a mix of older women, older men, some middle-agers, a young couple with a baby. They seem to be a happy bunch and will not, for the life of them, stop staring and smiling. Do I have something on my face? How does my hair look? There appears to be some mentoring going on. Everyone is comparing notes, counseling the one who greeted me with the cheesy grin. One woman takes the hands of another. Do they know each other? Is this a compassionate reaching out, an effort to reassure? No. This is a reading. Over coffee. In the middle of the café. Maslow can wait. I have an essay busting out all around me.

Given the nature of the meeting, I wonder now what it is that these friendly souls are “seeing” when they look at me. It must be something good. I am tempted to pull up a chair. I am tempted to “accidentally” brush skin to skin with one of them. Regardless, I am glad for the opportunity to make them smile. I am glad for the opportunity to bring a light to their days.

It makes me think of the man in the wheelchair. A different man on a different day. I am making my way down the sidewalk headed into class. He approaches in a wheelchair, no teeth, tattered clothes, five o’clock shadow gone bad. He has obvious mental challenges. I am walking at my normal brisk clip, focused on some nonexistent point in the distance, but for a second I catch his eye. He makes intense contact, smiles a huge toothless smile and shoots me the cheeriest, “YER priddy.” My day is sunshine immediately. I cannot stop smiling, at first a contained little smirk, after a full out grin.

Do I do this for others? Do I throw out sunshine? Do I radiate warmth? Am I the guy in the wheelchair, the woman in the bookstore? Or am I the student refusing the project, throwing out mean words in her paper, suggesting what an incompetent instructor I am, and how I have no idea how to teach this class? Am I that student sitting in her seat all term glaring, surrounded in negative energy, calling me the “B” word in her head? Nothing has made me ever question my teaching more. Nothing has made me more eager to quit a profession that I love. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I’m not the one to stand up front. Maybe I’m not servicing students as I hope I am. Every term ends. Students don’t repeat classes with instructors they don’t like. I never see her after this. I don’t need to. She is always with me. Maybe I am not the instructor I aim to be.

Do I make others smile? Do I cause them joy or cause them pain? How do they feel after having crossed my path? Can I make a day with just a look or an offhand remark? Can I make them feel better about who they are, what they do, about simply being alive? Can I bring a grin, a positive thought, a happy heart? I don’t know. I don't know, but I’m sure as heck going to try.

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