Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Life's a Teach

Life’s a Teach
I used to work in the public information department at a large community college in the Midwest. I wrote about students, faculty, and staff. One of the great things about the work was how it upset my assumptions.

I was visiting a satellite campus about 40 miles from the main campus. It was relatively new, and had a heating and cooling system that used the sun…and ice. The custodian gave me a tour of the system, explaining details in ways I could understand. I asked if there had been any problems with it. He said there had, but he’d been able to fix them. In fact, the manufacturer of the system had sent their engineers to the school to learn from Clint. It didn’t take me long to realize the story was Clint, not the heating and cooling system. I asked him what he did in his spare time. “I build airplanes,” he replied. I envisioned the small, toy-sized models I’d seen people flying at a local park. I asked if he ever flew his planes at that park. He smiled. “I fly my planes at the Experimental Aircraft Association show at Oshkosh each year. I have an airstrip on my property.”

A few weeks later, I interviewed a woman who, after she’d gotten a PhD in environmental toxicology, complained to a friend that her work wasn’t what she expected. She didn’t really like it. Her friend, a machinist, suggested she try machining. He was joking, but she asked him to describe what he did. As he explained how he designed parts on a computer and then programmed a machine to manufacture the parts, she wanted to know more. A few weeks later she enrolled in the machining program at the community college. When I interviewed her, she’d just become a machining instructor at the college after working seven years in the field.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was the day I sat down in the cafeteria and asked the student at the table what program he was in. “Auto mechanics,” he replied. I asked him what his favorite course was, expecting him to talk about engines or transmissions. “Ms. Kenney’s World Literature class,” he said. “I love reading Shakespeare. He’s really writing about archetypes, much like Carl Jung.”
The students, faculty and staff at the college were my teachers. I’m still learning.
Debby de Carlo ©2007

No comments: