Appreciating the passion of educators

Molly Grace

Stop and think for a second about all the times you have complained about one of your professors giving you too much work or giving you an unfair grade. We’re all guilty of it, and most of us are probably repeat offenders almost every day. When we’re stressed with trying to complete fifteen credits’ worth of papers and exams, in addition to cramming in our various extracurricular activities, it’s easy to blame professors for our resulting crankiness. Too often, we choose to overlook the hard work and dedication they put forth on a daily basis.

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to experience something that I wish could be offered to each student on this campus. It made me appreciate the often-neglected, but truly inspirational, world of education. Ironically, this gift came from the one class that I took on a whim this year – my first ever truly “free elective” -Philosophy of Education, taught by Dr. Helen Lafferty.

Earlier in the semester, Dr. Lafferty asked each member of the class to nominate one professor who had made a significant impact on his or her life. These nominees came from a wide array of disciplines, including the English, philosophy, engineering, political science, theology, mathematics, history, sociology and education departments. We gathered last Thursday for a faculty panel discussion and asked each of the professors to share his or her philosophy of education with us.

What ensued was ninety minutes of some of the most enlightening and uplifting conversation I have heard in a long time. My classmates and I, most of us future teachers, were able to gather invaluable exposure to experienced educators as they expressed their love for education.

Although the professors had differing backgrounds and opinions on how to manage their classrooms, they shared a passion for their various roles as educators. Yes, each was committed to communicating the content knowledge of his or her particular subject area. However, they all voiced a philosophy that placed respect for the student above all other classroom concerns.

Each felt that it was his or her primary responsibility to help students become life-long learners and critical thinkers with the ability to integrate the lessons of the classroom into everyday life. It was this enthusiasm for and optimistic attitude towards their students that enabled such an eclectic group of individuals to find common ground.

Collectively, they described education as a miraculous, enriching and liberating experience that seeks to inspire a process of self-growth in students. These professors see their classrooms as comfortable laboratories of learning in which students should be encouraged to take risks and make interdisciplinary connections between pieces of knowledge. In doing so, they hope to help students realize their full potential as human beings. In addition to the passion that they demonstrated for their students, the faculty members also exhibited a commitment to the ongoing process of education. Many stressed how important it is to continually discover new ideas or to unearth new insights into older ideas. Many also humbly admitted that this process of discovery often takes place in the classroom with their students. Through their zeal for life-long scholarship, they hope to instill in their students a desire to continue their intellectual development beyond graduation in order to live more fulfilling lives.

The first thing we learned in Dr. Lafferty’s class was that the etymological root of the word “educate” is “educere” which means “to lead.” The ten professors that volunteered their time to talk to my class epitomized what it means to be “leaders” to their students. By using their knowledge to make an impact on the next generation of society, they taught us that we should seek to make a similar impact in whatever field we choose to pursue.

While I have always been grateful for the opportunity to attend this prestigious university, the experience of listening to the inspirational advice from various Villanova professors endowed me with a much deeper appreciation for the dedication of the faculty on this campus. I, for one, am thankful for the privilege of being able to learn from such an impassioned group of people.