Well, it’s over. I’m finished.
This Wednesday afternoon, I’ll have completed teaching my last college history class of 2016. While reaching the end of another semester is always a joy, this past one has been particularly meaningful for me.
I love teaching. Really, I do. While it is a lot of hard work, it’s also incredibly rewarding and gives a deep sense of purpose to my life.
Knowing this, you can probably imagine how concerned I was in the wake of my brain hemorrhage and hospitalization last winter. During my final week in Rochester, I was genuinely worried that I might never be able to teach again. Indeed, the odds seemed stacked against me.
In one, critical moment last Christmas Eve, I’d gone from being a moderately intelligent young man to being unable to even feed or dress myself without assistance. I couldn’t eat without spilling food on my clothes. I couldn’t shower without a nurse or a therapist supervising me. I wasn’t even allowed to walk without someone supporting my body. For all practical purposes I felt like one of the mentally disabled high school students I’d worked with as a substitute paraprofessional several years earlier.
Perhaps even worse than these humiliations was the fact that my short-term memory was practically non-existent. I had to keep a journal just to remember what I did throughout the course of a day. For example, after each meal I had to write down what foods I’d just eaten. Oftentimes I couldn’t even do this without someone hovering over me, coaching me and reminding me.
The most difficult thing through all of this was that I didn’t know if I would ever get any better. I certainly didn’t have high hopes of recovering completely. Many times I silently wondered, “Am I going to have to keep a journal like this for the rest of my life?”
Then one day shortly after my release from the hospital, I received a phone call from the chair of the college history department. He asked how I was doing, and I told him I thought I could be ready to teach again by the beginning of the following fall semester.
As of today we have finished up that fall semester. I’m happy to say it’s been one of the best I’ve ever had. This is in large part due to the great group of students I got to teach. All of them were, without exception, bright, mature, and responsible. I couldn’t have asked for a better batch for my first semester back in the classroom.
Now, as 2016 draws to a close, I find myself counting my blessings from the past year. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say they are almost too many to number. Today however, one in particular stands out to me, and that is the opportunity I’ve been given to stand up in front of my class and teach my students once again.