Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday night class

I wish there was a picture that could capture how I felt when I left the Desoto Campus tonight after class. Words like excited, enthusiastic, empowering, hopeful, positive all come to mind, but seem so trite. As if often the case in any job, any personal life, there are good things and not so good things, and I seem to have had a share of late in the not so good. (I will say with all sincere truthfulness and humility that in the face of the situation of Emery and her family that my "not so good" pales in significance. I also say with all sincere truthfulness and humility that I also learned long ago that the feelings we have are important, even in the face of those who have far more dire circumstances and situations than we do.)

So, in that case of the not so good extra helpings lately, it was incredible to have an experience where it felt "so good." This group of students in this class (this is only my second class meeting with them) is just a tonic to me. They range in age from apparently quite young and traditional to older students who have children. They are somewhat evenly split between black and white. They are all women. Some are married, some are single, some are divorced. What makes it such a "good" experience?

When I teach, my favorite thing is a lot of discussion and application of the information they should have read or already know to situations. The "critical thinking" kind of class, where one has to apply knowledge. Tonight, we reviewed the content of the class topic briefly (by briefly, perhaps 30-45 minutes?) and then the rest of the class was applying it, through group discussion, dyads, question and answer, etc.

I was fascinated by the variety of interpretations, explanations, experiences that all combined to give us a broader understanding of the content and how it informs social work practice. There is one young woman who impressed me last week, and continued to do so this week, with her insight and application. As the class progressed and the discussion deepened, it was exciting to see students begin to venture more opinions, ideas, test out new theories, speak up when they had been mostly silent.

We talked about challenges, and the importance of people and things in our life that challenge us, and how it allows us to develop our identity of who we are in the world. It reinforced the importance of opportunities for competence in our lives, and how one of the most important things we can do is create opportunities for people to experience competence.

So, as I was traveling home the hour and 15 from Desoto to Oxford, I was not only elated about the students in this class and the future opportunities, I was thinking about myself. I was feeling empowered, and as if no matter what, I will not only survive, but thrive. I was thinking of all the difficult things I have faced, all the challenges that I have faced, and thinking of how in spite of painful things and things that I would just not "prefer" that this journey has been one of joy and learning and infinite opportunity when I have been open to the experience and the opportunity. On a cognitive level, every time it has been difficult the last 2 years, I know that I will survive. Possibly because I always have, and have such wonderful support from family and friends that I cannot conceive of being alone and unable to draw on those resources if needed. I have had some wonderful experiences in the last 2 years of beyond survival, like when I was in St. Paul 2 years ago.

Tonight, on the way home I was in thrive mode--that no matter all the things I could have or should have or might have done, my life right now is what I choose. I was blessed with parents who believed in me and still do, with natural intelligence, and with opportunities I did not always deserve and often squandered. I know that my achievements are due in part to chance and life circumstances, just as they are due in part to hard work and perseverance. I know that everyone does not have all of those components, and in spite of that, for all those who do not, many still succeed, still persevere, and still matter and make a difference.

I guess that is why in spite of my reputation among some as a two-headed hydra, I am still inspired by social work, social work students, and the whole idea of making a difference in the world.

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