There's so much I could write about to catch up on our lives in the last month, but instead, I want to write about the life I've left behind. Facebook has been an amazing tool for me. It's enabled me to stay in contact with many people that I otherwise would have left behind. Our move to Virginia has had its moments, but it's so wonderful to know I can keep up with my friends and former students in Oklahoma.
As an undergraduate instructor, one of my hard and fast rules has been to have clear boundaries with my students. I don't drink with them, go out to dinner with them, have friendships with them. I always saw my role as a facilitator in their learning and not as a buddy. Most students are respectful of this (in fact, I'm quite sure many of them never had any interest in me farther than a grade! I know I never did with my instructors!). But sometimes, some students did have trouble understanding why I couldn't do these things. College campuses are places where there is a lot of free exchange of ideas between adults, which often leads to friendships, and boundaries can get crossed very easily. Over the years there have been many, many students I've met that I just absolutely loved as people. These people were smart, talented, and gifted in their fields. They were often hard workers and shared the same values and ideals as I did. Getting to be their instructor was such a gift for me. I got to share their journey, if even for only a semester, and watch as they were growing and developing into someone even more gifted, more talented.
The great thing about being a college instructor is that eventually everyone leaves your course. You're no longer bound by the rules that you felt were important to encourage student success at the time. And then you get to move out of the role of instructor and into the role of, sometimes mentor, and if you're really lucky, friend.
I've been really lucky. Some of my absolute favorite people in the world are my former students. I've seen them go through so many life changes--graduation, moves, relationships, marriages, and children--and feel so fortunate to know them. What so many of them don't realize is the effect they have had on my life. How they have encouraged me to continue to learn, to want to be a better teacher and person. How they continually inspire me to live a better life.
Leaving Oklahoma was a hard decision. The easy part was knowing I would be with family in Virginia, that we had a life waiting here for us if we wanted it. I miss my friends and I know in a few weeks I will desperately miss my role of teacher in a classroom, with a group of young adults looking at me as though I hold some sort of answers they're seeking. I always knew the truth--that I didn't know the answers but we would learn them together. And eventually they know that as well.
So as much as people complain about Facebook, I'll say this: I feel incredibly blessed to be able to keep up with the people who have energized me, challenged me, and changed my life forever. And yes, Erin, that includes you. :-)