Monday, August 10, 2009
What Do You Care About?
I lost a dear mentor on Thursday. Colleen Aalsburg Wiessner, Ph.D., died suddenly while on vacation with her family. She was one of the kindest, gentlest souls I have ever known, and the loss to her family and to the learning community is immeasurable.
Above all she was a teacher, one of perhaps only a few true teachers I have ever known. Teaching was not her job; it was her work and her purpose and her joy. In her own words, from the NC State University website: "Inclusive, affective, collaborative, participatory, critical, and developmental are six words that describe my approach to teaching. I seek to create learning communities with my students, settings in which we can question, reflect, laugh, challenge and grow in our roles as educators. I enjoy infusing the arts and other creative approaches in my learning designs. As Paulo Freire, I believe teachers are also learners and learners are also teachers."
One of my fondest memories of Colleen took place several years ago when I was a student in her "Introduction to Qualitative Research" course. She asked us to take out a blank sheet of paper and said we had a short writing assignment. She paused and asked us to answer the question, "What do you care about?"
My answer to that stuck with me through the rest of my graduate studies, kept me focused on my dissertation topic each time it threatened to derail, and now helps me steer through job challenges when I sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture of my work.
So I ask you: What do you care about?
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I lost my mentor, Dr. Violet Malone, a couple of years ago. She, too, was a "teacher" in all that the word entails. The fact that she was tenured faculty at a large university never beat that out of her, or that she was a world-wide speaker on Adult Education issues, or a renowned author and consultant.
Pretty much everything good about me in teaching today comes from her. And I can give you literally thousands of others that will say exactly the same thing.
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