On a recent trip, I flew out of JFK in New York. As we passed over the surrounding waterways, there were a number of ships of all shapes and sizes underway. I noticed that each ship, whether big or small, fast or slow, created its own unique wake; or the path or course of anything that has passed or preceded.
I’m not typically prone to deep philosophical thoughts at 30,000 feet, but I got to thinking that as we go through life, we all create our own unique wakes in relation to the people we encounter. As faculty members we stir up “water” in a variety of ways. We, of course, impact and influence our students. We interact with colleagues and staff members. We also participate in our local communities. When we consider all the people we encounter, it can be helpful to ask “who’s in my wake?”
We all leave a trail
I remember a history professor I had as an undergrad who always used to say, “We read for our degree.” He clearly and consistently communicated the value of reading deeply and broadly to expand our knowledge. A professor in my Masters program provided me the space, flexibility and extra time in his course for me to find direction in my emergent career path. I had a professor in my Doctoral program who epitomized work-life balance. While he was a serious scholar, he was never too busy to share a joke with one of the housekeepers, inquire after a sick family member, or buy a poor graduate student a cup of coffee.
I also had a professor who “motivated” us by belittling students who offered incorrect answers to the questions he posed. I was frustrated by the professor who didn’t bother to provide a single word of feedback on a semester-long project that I’d poured my heart and soul into. I sat through a 15-student seminar course with a professor who never bothered to remember our names.
We all leave a wake. How do we want our students and colleagues to remember us? What can we do today to be a positive influence and inspiration for those with whom we interact? Here are a few ideas:
Who has had a positive impact on your own learning?
Please post your comments below.