I'm in this program, doing this work, because at the end of it all I will (hopefully) get a job teaching undergraduates New Testament and early Christian history classes and maybe some languages. I have a deep love for the texts, for discussing them with new and seasoned readers, for working with students on their writing and critical thinking skills, and for always learning more. Being surrounded by a group of people (both students and professors) similarly devoted to students and ideas is constantly rewarding.
This is what I'm knitting: Child's First Sock in Shell Pattern (Rav link) using Ella Rae Lace Merino. This shot is a tad blurry, but it captures the colors of the yarn really nicely.
I've had a number of conversations in the last week about some of the things that are most frustrating about the work we do, including a sometimes baffling lack of oversight or support, interference from personal or departmental politics, and conflicting expectations and demands on our time (please learn everything and know it well, but do it all in three years or less). At the same time, these conversations and other events have been like trees marking significant progress and the most enjoyable parts of our work:
- celebrating with friends graduating after many long years
- making plans for how best to serve our students
- sharing frustrations and solutions with people who totally get it
- collaborating on projects and exchanging reading recommendations
- encouraging each other at every step of a major task, no matter how insignificant (Yesterday I finally created the Word documents that will become my exam reading lists, and some sweet friends congratulated me.)
Most importantly, what these "trees" bring home is just how much my love of my work is related to the people with whom and for whom I'm doing it. The markers that mean the most and that I find the most encouraging (or, on the flip side, discouraging) are those that have to do with students supporting each other and teachers encouraging students. The forest is, for me, the space in which I can have authentic, open conversations with others to come to some kind of common ground and in which we can learn together, cooperatively. Does that sound really cheesy? Oops :)
What is the forest for your work? Have you noticed any significant trees lately that have made you take notice of how you're relating to your daily tasks and larger goals? I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!