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why i’m a teacher

I’m one of those people who believe that we have too much formal school and too much credentialing. Yet, I remain a teacher. Why? In the big picture, I live for science. I see myself as a social scientist. There is value in having a scientific body of knowledge about our communities. So my classroom is an embassy for knowledge. Show up and we’ll let you in on a wonderful discussion of how we know what we know about our social world.

At the level of daily class room interactions, I live for that 20% of students who are really dedicated to learning the material. These 20% of students aren’t always the most gifted. Rather, they are defined by attitude and commitment. I have no problem with the large fraction of students who take my class to satisfy a requirement or to help them get a job. But the 20% who are invested in long term learning motivate me because they will carry knowledge with them once they graduate, hopefully for a very long time.

Once in a while, you can have a serious impact on a student, maybe even a life changing impact. This happened to me a few years ago. I was teaching a course called “Money, Sex, Health, and Happiness.” The goal was to use important life course issues to draw people into thinking about social science.

Near the end of my course, I have a lecture called “Alcoholism: The Nuclear Bomb of the Life Course.” I discuss how incredibly harmful alcoholism is to the individual and how it basically rots all your social relationships. A few days after I gave this lecture, a student comes up to me and says, “Fabio, after I heard your lecture, I realized that I’m an alcoholic. I’m fucking my life up. I stopped drinking this weekend.”

I was left speechless. People may enjoy a discussion of social issues, and they may enjoy your lecture, but few will try to change their lives after a college lecture. This student was a freshman. He soon disappeared into the student body after the end of the semester. I honestly don’t know if he followed through. Quitting alcohol is damn hard, especially on a campus with a heavy drinking culture. But in a moment, I saw the power of knowledge, it can change lives. It was just one person, but it mattered. And that’s why I’m a teacher.

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Written by fabiorojas

September 25, 2018 at 4:12 am

Posted in uncategorized

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