Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Learner for Life

My primary teaching job—yes, I have more than one—is to teach adults. This past week I have been reading articles about teachers developing as life-long learners. I was thinking, during one of my morning walks with Taffy, that my dad is a prime example of this life-long learning. My morning walks are generally times with many unformed thoughts run through my head: I make no effort to corral them. Sooner or later, they form themselves into some cohesive form. Or I forget them.

My father is not a teacher in the professional sense, although as a parent he's certainly done his share of educating his offspring. My father's degree is in electrical engineering, hard-earned from Drexel through twelve years of night school. He, unlike my mother, had the opportunity to go to college after high school, but had chosen the workforce instead. Later on, the army and the Korean War chose him. He decided on a college degree after spending many years on the floor at Westinghouse, Inc. He brought some regrets to Drexel with him, but more in the way of practical experience and the drive to succeed.

Dad has long since retired from Westinghouse. He now lives by the seaside in a resort town, but even in his golden years, he continues to learn. Three years ago, he bought himself a welding kit because, he said, he's always wanted to learn to weld. Last year, a canoe was tied to the dock at the beach house so that he and his wife could paddle down the lake. Even now, at 78, Dad is heading up the committee for a new historical museum, being involved in everything from drawing up plans to inspecting the site to hiring contractors. And Dad is a happy camper.

This has been his philosophy of life, taught to my brother and I when  surf-fishing expeditions left us empty-handed. "Give a man a fish," my dad would say, "and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." My father encouraged my brother and me to "fish for a lifetime."

I, too, had a bumpy start to my college career. I went off to Millersville University like a good girl after high school, but a tricky eye disease and subsequent surgeries called me home. I decided at the age of 38 to get the long-desired teaching degree; Mom and Dad cheered me on in every way possible. Even when my vision threatened to give out early on, Dad knew I had the determination to see it through. I am, after all, his daughter. I was in my last semester of my M.Ed. when Mom passed away from a major stroke. Dad told me at my graduation that Mom would have been proud of the way I'd gone on and graduated at the top of my class.

Six years ago, I showed Dad the application for this Ed.D. program. When I delayed sending it in, he asked me what the hold-up was. I spoke with some fear about the commitment this required. Dad countered with this: It was only an application. Fill it out. Send it in. See what happened.  I got the acceptance call a few days later and immediately called up my father. "What," I asked him, "if I can't do this?" I could hear his shrug over the phone. "Take the first class," he said. "See what happens."

 I finished my post-graduate degree in 2011, proudly adding “Ed.D.” after my name. While my students do not believe this, I am still "seeing what happens", and continuing to learn along with them. And I'd like to lay the blame squarely at the feet of my father, who gave me another wise expression in addition to the fish story. 
When you stop, you rust. I believe he told me this right before he went off to his line-dancing lesson.

I vow to never rust!

No comments:

Post a Comment