06 December, 2012

"Why Am I Here?"

On 6 December 2012, Traci Crisco from the Adult High School/GED area of the Davie Campus asked me to visit her students and talk.  I have visited with Traci and her students many times and am always eager to visit with her, so I arrived and planned a few activities for the students. One of the first things I did was create a wiki (click here to see the wiki) and asked the students to ask me any question and that I would answer their questions at the wiki. However, one of the first questions I saw was this one: "What are you here for?" This blog entry is my initial reflection on the nature of this question--"Why am I here?"

 My first response to this question had to do with the multiple ways I could read this seemingly simply "What are you here for?" I could read it directly, e.g. "Why are your visiting us today?" Or, I could read it as a little more pointed: : "What the hell are you here for?" I also could read it philosophically: "Why are you here on this planet?" or I could have read it ironically: "Yeah--why are you here?" I believe that part of the reason of my "being here" is answered with this brief reflection on ways to read the question: I love language and the potential nuances language carries. So this first reflection is part of my answer.

 I have to concede that another reason "I am here" was to do with my parents. My dad was a veteran of WW II

Arnold Lester Branson circa 1941

He had been a POW of the Germans for about nine months (early September 1944 until May 1945), returned from combat, married my mom, and went to work with Western Electric making telephones.  He had what was called a "piece rate." This term means that he could potentially earn extra money if he exceeded his base rate. By 1953, because he had meet and exceeded his piece rate, I was born.  Thus, another answer to the "why am I here" traces to my parents and their lives and the choicest they made.

Another aspect of this question--certainly appertaining to my visit to Davie--is what I wanted to accomplish with the students that day.  I listed three things on my Prezi that were my goals for that class time:
  • You may choose to read more
  • You can demonstrate that you better understand the reasons for reading
  • You may be able to demonstrate some fundamental critical thinking skills
I believe I accomplished these goals and here is the evidence: I have invited several students to join my wiki, which will guide them to read (and I hope write) more. I asked them several questions--from naming movie allusions from a comic strip to reasons why Scrooge gave the Cratchit family a turkey for Christmas (think about it: turkeys are indigenous to the New World and it had to be expensive to offer a turkey as a gift in the 1840s).  Students eagerly engaged in the responses and I believe both have deeper understanding of reading and were able to demonstrate some critical thinking.  As one faculty member noted as I was getting ready to leave: "[The presentation] made them think."

Since I do have my PhD, I also have to reflect a bit on the "deep" reading of the question: "Why am I here?"  I believe I am a teacher because I simply have the genes.  Where they came from, I do not a clue. But I do recall helping my neighbor with US history--the neighbor was in high school and I was in junior high.  I was able to guide his thinking way back in the mid-1960s and I vividly recall his mother commenting on how I was going to be a teacher.

I believe I am at a community college because of my passion for teaching, my commitment to students, and my general optimism about the future. Our young people are our future. And I compelled to have a hand in that future thru guiding students today.

I need to take a break now and get back to the wiki--but this piece is my first run at the question: "Why am I here."