From Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise, 2011.
(Just realized that the long peach dress I'm writing about is the same dress I wore in the first chapters of in the next book I wrote, Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog. I loved that dress. )
Recently I added a new question to my Unit 1 Pretest.
After asking, “Who is the Commander in Chief?” and “Name five countries in Asia,” I asked the students something they weren’t ready for.
“#24: Tell me what you’re great at.”
When a roomful of fearful eyes darted up from the page, I changed it a little and added, “What would your NICE friends say you’re great at?”
A few students winced, so I continued. “For example, if you won the lottery what would you DO for fun that you’re already great at?”
A student blurted out, “Well I wouldn’t be HERE!” and a few others laughed along.
I didn’t laugh. I stopped cold and lost all my bouncing Tigger energy.
“Oh no! I don’t wish that for you! I want you to be happy, now and always, like I am!”
I told them I taught my heart out as a graduate student for $1300 a class, just as hard as I teach full time now. And if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d STILL be teaching here, same classes, same students, same attitude (cuter earrings), because every single day at my job is fun.
The class stopped and everyone looked up, because this whole “life thing” sounded serious.
I reminded them that life is supposed to be fun. FUN FUN FUN. Too many of them looked at me like I was crazy, which was a problem because it was early in the semester and I was still doing my best to not look crazy.
Their answers to question #24 were beautiful. Across three classes my students candidly shared they can (among other talents, I’m sure) hunt, fish, sing, do hair, fix cars, build computers and make other people feel included.
The fact I think I have the dream job and get giddy at work sometimes bothers people.
One day I got to class ten minutes early, ready to set up. Another professor was still there, having a serious talk with a concerned student. I erased the board behind her and found a place to put my stuff.
Then, I guess I swirled around like Snow White because she stopped talking to her students and said, “Did you just swirl?”
I caught myself and felt my hand against my favorite long peach, silky dress.
It was possible I just swirled, but just in case, I did a deliberate twirl and told her I was so happy to teach Reconstruction I couldn’t contain myself.
She told me to get my head checked, which was funny, so I swirled and twirled again, and soon enough I was off telling stories to another class, positive I have the dream job and wishing the same for all of them.
There is no “average” community college student, which is what makes teaching them so exciting.
My students come from all walks of life, and from all over the world.
My chairs are filled with dual-enrolled high school students, grandfathers, student-athletes, working single mothers and bartenders. They have GPAs from “very low” to 4.0 and everything in between.
Some of my students are natural, happy, fluent writers. Others would rather jump into a thorn bush than take my essay exams.
Today, students can shop professors online at sites that show our average grades, post comments and rate us.
It feels really weird to me that students walk in the door with an idea of who I am. To level the playing field, I ask them to write me a few paragraphs about themselves for a fictional website I call meetmystudents.com. I didn’t do this back when Marvin was a student ten years ago, but I wish I had because their responses give a window into who they are, outside of history class. 
Mac and Bowl of Ice Cream
Mac is bound to approach every task you give him with the gusto of a fat kid eating ice cream. In fact, the bigger the challenge the better he will be. Mac will show up to class regularly and with punctuality. He loves to take tests and believes that essays are truly the only form of examination. I must warn you though. As much as Mac loves school he has a commitment far greater in his eyes than any work you can give him. As a soldier in the United States Army it is almost guaranteed that there will be many days that he will not attend your class. But, you need not worry, as I have seen in the past semester, once his duty as a soldier is halted for the time being it is most certain that he will accomplish all that he has missed.
Penny, Not Your Typical Student
Penny is not your typical student. To the regular professor that doesn’t go the extra mile. You’ll never find out here true character. It takes a one on one with her to peel off just one of the layers that makes her. She is a tactile learner. In which type would prefer a verbal test rather than written, as well as projects rather than bookwork. She is a very quite yet spontaneous student in the classroom.
Golden Rays of Ken
Ken is a very outgoing student that walks into class everyday with a smile on his face so big it makes you feel like the world is a better place. He sits in the class quietly, paying full attention to every word you say. He completes all assignments before the deadlines that they are due. The fact that he never misses a class is important but when you put all his characteristics into one package some would go as far as to say that he is the perfect student and receives a ten out of ten. Having a high caliber student such as Ken in your course makes you feel like golden rays of sunshine are beaming on your head on a brisk spring day.
Austin, A Clean-Cut College Kid
If you were writing something to describe me as a student you would probably tell them that they’re getting a kid that’s motivated and wants to get the job done. I think you could tell them that you’re getting a kid who will stand up for something that’s not right and will not stop until he gets it right.
The best thing you could tell them was you’re getting a hard working, clean-cut college kid who wants to make it big one day so he’s taking college important.
Dierdre from Germany
Dierdre is an international student from Germany and good student. Normally you will find her in the first three or four rows since she wants to be able to pay attention to the instructor and does not like to sit in the back rows. You will not hear her talk very often since she is shy and a little afraid of mistakes she might make when talking to you in English. English is only her second language.
While she is taking a class she will put all her effort in that class and she will try to get an A. An organization were she participates is the International Student organization at Tallahassee Community College.
Eric, In The First Or Second Row
Eric never misses class and is usually borderline punctual. He’s very meticulous with his studies and retains loads of information easily. Being far away from home, Eric may get discouraged and slump half to three-quarters of the way through the semester. This is about the time he’ll make himself noticed and may make frequent visits to your office. His slump could last three weeks before he regains his confidence and fully rebuilds his motivation.
Tammy currently has no kids at the age of 32, in which she doesn’t look a day over 25 (which can be a good and bad thing). She is currently happily separated and needs to quit shopping so much and taking vacations and go ahead and spend that money on the divorce. Tam is a very outgoing, outspoken girl that likes to have fun and make people laugh. She’s a good student that just wants to stay on top of things and strive for the best.
Luke, Former Goalie
Observant, quiet, and shy are some words that may describe Luke, but that is until you get to know him, then those words may change to words like nice, caring, and funny. He enjoys spending time with his family which plays a large role in his life for a lot could be due to his disabilities, which include, scoliosis, club feet, Spina-bifita, and many more. On his thirteenth birthday Luke’s mother signed him up for the Make A Wish Foundation and were they made it possible to experience Walt Disney World. Also living in the north he played his favorite sport, hockey. He never played on an organized team, but just street hockey around his neighborhood with friends. His position was a goalie and a good one at that.
Luke has huge goals and creative ideas that he hopes to achieve in the future. He wants to become a successful entrepreneur; therefore he could give back to his family, community, animals, and environment. He has a huge heart and wants to one day become an inspirational speaker by helping others find their way and not give up hope, give them a reason to help themselves and others around them. Luke has many aspirations for his future, not just for himself but also for others. To make the world a better place one person at a time.
The first day of class was like amazing to me because I had never had a teacher that was happy to teach history to a student. At first I thought she was crazy because the way she act…. Damn I love this class. 
Outstandingly Observant Otto
Otto is a good student, always keeping up with his studies. He either eats a bowl of fruity pebbles or a plain bagel with strawberry cream cheese every morning. He has recently broken up with his girlfriend of almost 2 years…so don’t be mad if you catch him checking out the beautiful girls in class. And let him know if you see one checking him out ahah.
Eduardo the Quiet
Eduardo is a quiet student who tries to get to class early and be ready even before the professor arrives. He is always sitting in the first three rows in order to understand clearly what the professor is trying to explain and pay attention in class.
Whenever Eduardo has something to say, add or question many students will try to not make a single noise in order to hear his accent. Sometimes they even ask him to repeat what he just said, in order to hear his unique accent again. This situation only happens occasionally since Eduardo is a generally very quiet student.
Do not let the blonde hair fool you; this girl takes her education seriously. Ashley always shows up for class and is very concerned about her grades. She is not looking to walk out of class with an A, but she wants to take things she learns in class and be able to apply them in the real world.
Her negatives are Terry comes to class almost every day late; it may only be five to ten minutes late but the fact remains she is late. Her positives are that she does come to class even though a little tardy everyday.
Geoff, the guy that sits in the well known “Sniper seat” in the classroom is an 8 year Navy veteran who is excited to be getting his education now that the new GI Bill is in effect. He’s been waiting for 4 years for the post 9-11 GI Bill. This is his second year at Tallahassee Community College and his first year receiving a scholarship for theater. He has been seen in past shows at Tallahassee Community College such as A Chorus Line and Big River and Chicago. Geoff has one more semester here at before he will be transferring to Florida State to finish his degree in musical theater.
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