Dr. Davenport, is an alumnus of AIU with a degree in Forensic Psychology and professor at a university in Ecuador
That is the span of a life in few words. There are those who believe that we begin life as a tabula rasa, and then proceed to fill the blank space with events of our conscious choice. There are others who believe in predestination; that all is written, and we merely comply with what life presents to us in some mystical journey. No doubt there are many permutations of both beliefs. This article is about one life. It is mine.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jacqueline Davenport. Seventy-one years have passed since this babe traversed the portals from the womb and breathed her first gasp of air. That is the zenith of life. Diverse careers, countries of residence, and myriad wonders have been experienced throughout. Of all of them, the career as a professor has been the most rewarding.
Community service is a phrase that is familiar in our lexicon. The question becomes what is a community, and how can it be served?
As a teacher, and now a professor, for 40 years, it is my belief that a community is composed of people and, ergo, a classroom is a community.
In general, the teaching profession is not known for its vast remuneration. On the contrary, it is a humble profession in that regard. Let us consider, however, the service a teacher can provide to her classroom community. This is where the profession becomes one of high calling and high expectations. From a personal standpoint, this article will share my philosophy and life in that regard.
Teachers have a position of great power coupled with great responsibility. The wise use of that power can help to shape the thinking, perceptions, and future of each and every student.
I serve my classroom community by using many avenues. Some of these include:
- sharing personal experiences, when appropriate and on point;
- offering a philosophy that may be enlightening;
- digressing from the textbook on many occasions to broaden the range of instruction;
- challenging the students to use critical thinking.
The university where I teach is in Ecuador. In this country, the press and media are censored. In my classroom communities, the students often receive essay assignments that are to be based upon an article that is provided and is garnered from the internet about something in Ecuador that does not appear in the local press. The subjects of politics, religion, and sports are taboo for essays. The students are exposed to the knowledge that the regimentation of the media in the country does not mean that they need to have their sources curtailed because of where they live. It is heartening to see the excitement and enthusiasm that the students feel when they read about such things as archaeological discoveries, efforts of other countries to assist with a given environmental problem, and actions of their government with regard to currency matters.
The university has a code of honor, which is enforced in my classrooms. Using some of the tenets of that code, the students may receive an assignment to write an opinion essay on the meaning of honor or truth or the reason(s) for rules. Usually, the essays need to contain at least 400 words. This requirement forces the students to delve deeply into the subject, rather than just writing a cursory treatment of it.
It is submitted herein that all of these activities are of value to the students and, therefore, provide an equally valuable service to them.
Students are asked whose imagination is being used when they spend hour upon hour with video games or the like. It usually takes about 30 seconds for one of the students to respond that the imagination being employed belongs to the programmer. At that point, the students are told that their own imaginations may be somewhat dormant due to the current culture. They are then taught the good news that their imaginations are still within them, just waiting to be tapped. Humans do not have the power to destroy their own imaginations. Then they are told that our writing class is one of the premier ways to awaken and stimulate their imaginations.
As each semester progresses, it becomes patently clear that many students have, indeed, awakened their imaginations. Some of the writing that results is worthy of a budding great writer. There are exceptions, of course. However, in the main, the students discover their own power as writers. Their pride in the accomplishment is palpable.
When the number of students is multiplied by the numbers of years of teaching, the impact of the classroom community service can be appreciated.
I continue to be blessed with great energy and wonderful health. I am still imbued with an immense gratitude for what the teaching profession has given to me. As Omar Khayyam wrote, “The moving finger writes, and, having writ, moves on.” Eventually, my moving finger must move on. The hour is not known. It is unimportant. What is important is that the use I make of what was given to me continue to be directed towards service to my students for as long as is permitted, either by the now full tabula rasa or by the gods of predestination.