With each new semester, my students arrive with hopes and dreams for the future. They bring with them goals, plans and thoughts of anticipation about college and what is to many, a new beginning. Their dreams are heartfelt, distinct and meaningful. Most of them are determined to succeed against all odds.
But alongside those hopes and dreams are obstacles that cloud their lives in the present. These complications make it much more difficult for them to obtain an education.
College is not their No. 1 activity because they also are mothers and fathers, clerks in stores, employees at utility companies, office managers in doctors’ offices, enlisted personnel at Cannon Air Force Base, farmers, teacher aides, teachers, sons and daughters and husbands and wives.
In addition, some students drive longer distances to attend class. One former student came from a tiny community situated off Interstate 40 somewhere between San Jon and Amarillo. She attended school two days a week, spent one night with her sister here in Clovis and then made the long trek back after class the next day.
So in coming, my students take on new responsibilities with lives that are already laden with many other roles. Some cannot cope and as the semester progresses they drop out for various reasons. But most others are pressing on, working hard to finish the semester. When the semester is over, they can add several more college hours to their degree goal.
They come to class, open to learning new ways of studying and desiring to get some sort of motivation to press on. But in looking to me, the teacher for inspiration, I find that I am the one who’s inspired! I look at my students and the giants they face in their lives and I am amazed.
One student scheduled all her classes to meet on Wednesdays. She took 12 hours and then worked the other six days of the week. She was at the campus from 8:30 in the morning to 9:15 at night. She had several giants in her way — time, job and family!
Then there was the student who drove 60 miles to attend a noon class, stayed for my class at 6:45 and then drove back to work at the hospital in her town 60 miles away. Her shift started at 11 that night! She worked until 7 o’clock the next morning! Her giants were job, travel time and exhaustion!
The absolute spirit and fortitude of those who overcome obstacles was exemplified to me again one day last week when I met a former student in the doctor’s office where we were both waiting to see the doctor. She told me she had graduated, received her teaching certification and was teaching first grade this year. The giants in her life when she was in my class were time, transportation and finances!
Years ago I had a sign that hung in my office. It read: “When you face giants, be prepared!” Below these words was a picture of a sling shot, stones and a signature that read “David!”
Yes, young David of the Old Testament was prepared. He offered to face Goliath, the real giant who was towering many feet above him! David looked at all those who doubted that he could take care of Goliath and offered this rationale: “The Lord hath delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear and he will deliver me out of the hand of Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:37) He knew he could triumph because of God.
Sometimes we all face giants in our lives. Those are not necessarily physical giants like what young David faced but obstacles in life that seem overwhelming and impossible. Yet, it is satisfying to stand on the other side of the problem and see that we came through it. Whether it be school or a major difficult life situation, it is good to remember young David’s words: “The Lord hath delivered me…” After all, God is not one bit intimated by giants.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College.