Monday, January 24, 2011

Cooperation and Appreciation

Christmas break is now officially over and everyone is back to school. I had five weeks off, which seems like an eternity until you cram an eighteenth birthday, a twenty-first birthday, Christmas, another birthday, New Years, house guests, sort of moving, and then the recovery from all of the above into that time frame; then it feels more like two days, sixteen hours and thirty-six minutes to be exact. Well, not really exact. The point is that the break seemed to fly by at a record speed. All of the sudden I am back at school trying to juggle what at first seemed to be an impossible schedule.

Though we have a printed schedule of classes with instructor assignments, this document and what I end up teaching usually bear little resemblance to one another once the semester shake down has occurred. I’m OK with the mystery and intrigue that each new semester brings; it just makes for a hectic first week of classes.

This semester is no different. The complications came with several classes that were listed in the catalogue as TBA. These courses were scheduled this way because they are “off-semester” courses in a four-semester sequence. i.e. they should not have attracted many students; but, they did. And this created a scheduling nightmare. Not only did I have to coordinate seven or eight students’ schedules with my own, we also had limited physical space possibilities with which to contend. This time last week I was panicked about how I was going to make it all work. After many emails, phone calls, and quick conversations in the hall with students, today I am pleased to say that it is all pleasantly under control.

In a state that really can only be described as utter amazement, I find myself looking back trying to figure out how and why things fell into place relatively painlessly. As I review all that has taken place in the past seven days, I realize that what made a seemingly impossible situation accomplishable is my students’ willingness to be flexible and their consideration for their classmates.

I have students who are willing to endure what seem like interminable commute times on Dallas’ fledgling mass transit system to be in class at certain times; others have changed work schedules to accommodate another student’s already scheduled classes; I have even have one class that is willingly meeting at 8 am. I have been amazed by the concessions that each and every student has been willing to make to help one another and to help me. It speaks volumes to the character of our students.

I can’t help but wonder what things might be like in this world if everyone was so adaptable, flexible, and considerate of his or her co-workers, family, or even strangers. How would things be different if we were all willing to place the good of the whole rather than the good of ourselves at the top of our priority list? If this kind of cooperation were to be adopted on a societal level, how would we feel about each other? How would we feel about ourselves? Would we care more about each other? Would we build a closely-knit community?

I don’t know how all of these students will feel about one another at the end of this sixteen week semester, but I can say based on the number of “thank-yous” that they have shared with one another already this semester that they are aware and appreciative of the sacrifices that others have made for them What a refreshing atmosphere in which to work! For this privilege, I am grateful.