A week after Spring Semester ends, I bring more ransom gifts to the VA in Lake City to try to get them to release David Lowe.
This time, he stands. I wasn’t expecting that, and we fist pump in the fire lane at the VA.
Instead of flags on his cool shiny metallic calves, there are ducks.
“How will people recognize you?” I tease, and we shrug because he is unmistakable, indeed.
We bring the gifts, the letters and the good wishes upstairs.
He tells me maybe two more months, maybe back to school for fall. I hope so, I tell him. OH! And save the letters, please. Matthew is saving his at Camp Alamo. I want to put them together into a book and raise money for veterans outreach at TCC.
He agrees, and we keep a neat pile of letters next to his computer while filling bag after bag with triple-blade razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes, DVDs, soap, books, office supplies, puzzles, games and clothes.
The letters students wrote him go into a special bin, to be read and savored and passed around later.
After it’s all opened, sorted and admired, we sit out in the common area.
David shows my son Zack his cool picker-up thing that has a magnet and pincher at the end for fetching things on the floor.
Then he smiles, fishes around in his bag and pulls out his phone. “A Blackberry!”
My shiny cool man has a Blackberry, I proclaim, and he’s coming back to college.
All is good in this little corner of the world.
Soon enough, lucky me, I get more students.
( Everything below was written by the students about themselves. It is all in their own words.)
Gina By the Door
You can find Gina sitting by the door, which I’m guess is because she is eager to get out of class when it is finished, probably because her hand hurts from taking so many notes. She is always on time and always prepared for class. She knows one of my pet peeves is students interrupting my lectures, so I can tell Gina has great respect because she is always in her seat when class begins.
Joy, Who Travels and Works
Joy believes that you are never too mature to learn and earn a college degree! She is a bright, intelligent person with the desire to achieve her dreams. Working full time with the distraction of some mandatory travel is a concern to her but she works diligently to keep up with her assignments. Sometimes she comes off as being overly concerned about “bothering” you which makes her appear shy until you get to know her. Once you do then you realize it’s because Joy is an independent, self reliant person who can’t stand to have anyone waste her time either!
Very Sleepy Victoria
Victoria likes to take a corner seat towards the back. Victoria will start losing focus towards the end of the semester, and therefore will begin arriving late to class. Sometimes Victoria feels as if she is too good to take notes so she might just sit in class and text on her phone. If you have Victoria for an early class be careful because she is defiantly not a morning person. She is prone to doze off in the middle of lecture and not even know she did.
Charlie is a student that is energetic and loves to ask questions in class. He brings a good vibe to the class every time he walks in. He is an average test taker and an outstanding flirt. He lacks the ability to get all assignments turning in on time, can be easily distracted but is easy to bring back to focus. He is a respectable man and is a great joy to have in class.
Army Anthony, Close to Perfect
Anthony is a very well rounded individual who shows a lot of maturity for his age. He already seems like he is already past his years. He is a young veteran of the armed forces. His character and personality overshadows the fact that he actually served in combat for his country. Although very soft spoken, he still asked questions and took active roles in class lectures. His attentiveness and willingness to learn had also brushed off on some of the other students in my class. He holds study group meetings that are open to the whole class. He is as close to perfect as they come as a student.
I pay for the class, so I will be in class. I think that I am a hard working student, I enjoy coming to class, and I do all the work I am assigned to. I attend class regularly and if I do some how miss a day of class, there is a good explanation to why I missed that class. This semester I only missed one day and that was due to an accident I was involved in on the interstate.
John, Zoning Out
I hardly ever miss class usually participates if class interest me, and material doesn’t make sleep. Sometimes I tend to fall asleep in class or total zone out whatever you say. I also sometimes text on the cell phone during, mostly when bored.
Colleen With a Small Problem
Colleen is a hard-working student. She had a rocky start in the beginning of the semester due to a family emergency. She comes to class on time every day and sits in the front seats off to the side closest to the door. She likes to take thorough notes and will share them with anyone who needs them. She likes to write just about everything that she hears and she will not hesitate to raise her hand to ask what you were just talking about so that she can add it into her notes. While she may be a good student in the classroom, she has a small problem of not turning in work on time, or not at all. Hopefully this is something that she is working on to be the best student that she can be.
Air Force Anna
Attention all professors I know this fantastic young woman who has a passion for learning. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society and a veteran of the United States Air Force who is motivated and dedicated to learning.
Sammy, Fun and Bubbly
Sammy, who some people call her “Sammy-Joe” but I swear she’s not a hillbilly, is a well prepared student who is always present and on time for class. Although she may sit in the back row, she is still very focused on the discussions and makes sure to take very detailed notes so that she is always prepared for either an essay or test. She is also very generous with help and/ or advice if any student may need so in class. Since she is tad bit on the OCD side, she is always extremely organized with her school work and very conscientious of others. Since Sammy-Joe is taking five classes this semester, she makes sure to start her work ahead of the due date to ensure that she gets everything accomplished without having the stress of a pile of work to do at the last minute. Although she may come off as shy and not be the first one to speak up in class, she has a very fun, bubbly, loving personality who always tries to stay on a positive note and keep others around her laughing and positive as well. Any professor should find her to be a joy in class because she is determined to not let you down.
Jake, Respectful and Mannerable
Jake is the student who sits all the way in the back on the back wall he is very quiet. He always turns his work in on time, and is always on time to every class. As a professor I never get any trouble out of Jake, every time I ask him a question he is very respectful and mannerable saying yes ma’am or no ma’am. He always comes to class prepared to work; he also comes to class well dressed. If he was having troubles in his life which I know everyone has, a person can never tell because he also always comes into my class with a smile on his face. I believe I will enjoy Jake as a student this year and I am very proud to have him as a student in my class.
Who is THIS?
One semester as part of a pretest I put a picture this of Fidel Castro up and asked, “Who is this?”
Out of two classes, about 50 percent correctly identified the man in the picture as Fidel Castro (not all spelled it the same way. There were a few “Kastro” and some “Feedels” and a “Phedel,” which I decided to count as sort of correct, as in more correct than calling him Saddam Hussein).
Twenty-three students thought the image was Osama bin Laden.
Six thought the man in the picture was Saddam Hussein.
Tom Cruise (2)
Liam Neeson (2)
George W. Bush (2)
Middle Eastern Terroriots
Kumar from “White Castle”
Hitler’s cousin Jimmy
A smoky guy
The president steps down, and the vice president for academic affairs steps forward as interim president.
We have worked together for a long time.
When I flew to Tallahassee in 2005 to interview for my position, after meeting with a committee and the dean and seeing campus, I interviewed with her alone.
Out of all the interviews I’ve ever been on, she asked the only question that I still remember.
“Teaching the same history classes over and over semester after semester can become tedious. What will keep you from burning out?”
I answered her, “I don’t teach history. I teach students. As long as there are new students coming with new minds and new stories, I won’t burn out.”
We both smiled. Until she asked that question, I didn’t know the answer, either.
On Memorial Day weekend I fly to Austin for the NISOD conference to get my first teaching award. It is a round medal with the Texas Tower on it, nicknamed “The Manhole Cover.”
At the official “Medal Ceremony” on the last day of the conference, I sit next to the interim president, and after catching up on other things, I ask, “Remember Marvin? Will you give him his degree?”
Without hesitation, she pulls her phone/calendar out and simply says, “Yes, at the board meeting on June 28.”
“Thank you. Can I call the family? For real? Definitely June 28?”
I see her type “Marvin’s degree” into her phone. This is real.
The award program starts.
It is beautiful, funny and heartwarming, but mentally I’m only partially in the room.
I want to pull my phone out NOW and email, text and facebook Marvin’s family the GREAT news.
As my colleagues and I received our medals, a beautiful lady sings that Bette Midler song, the one about wind and wings and heroes.
The interim president slips away before the ceremony ends, and with her gone I feel emboldened to break my own rules.
I pull my phone out and text “Best Day Ever. Marvin gets his degree on June 28 if you can make it,” to Marvin’s brother and sister, knowing they will pass it to his other brothers and his parents.
I sit there for a minute, misty eyed, letting the song, the day, and my whole ten-year journey to find and write a happy ending to Marvin’s book finally sink in.
Now that I know when and how Marvin will get his degree, I can finish the book I promised him and his family, which I never doubted would have a happy ending.