What we learn is directly related to how open-minded we are. And I am proud to teach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, an institution known for promoting equity, social mobility, and student-centered learning. I write a letter to my students at the beginning and end of each academic semester. I want them to know where I stand, what I believe in, and how I want the course to change what and how they think about health, income, social status, and equity.
Here are some excerpts from my letters to students........
Fall 2022 Beginning
There is hope when we, as teachers, start a new semester. We hope that we profoundly impact the students we teach and walk with. This impact is difficult when the environment is online. But it's possible.
What ideas or beliefs do you hold dear?
Here are some ideas for being successful in this class.
Have an open mind and be open to change, even in this class. There are ways to engage with your fellow students and with me. Life is all about connection, and one of my favorite quotes is that the opposite of addiction (to anything) is not sobriety (of any type); it's connection. So how do we connect? Become mindful and aware? Know the path we are walking on and stay on a healing path when things get tough? This is the question I've been asking for more than a year. Writing a healing book when one is not healed.....
Check-in on Mondays for office hours. Tell me about your day, your dreams, and what you're passionate about. I love stories, and I care about you. If you just want to listen in, that is okay too. Sometimes silence and listening is the space that we need to occupy…
Tell me what you are going to do when you graduate from UNCG. I want to know. I will advocate for you, write letters of recommendation, and do anything you need. Send me a graduation announcement! I want to celebrate your successes.
Life is one big celebration.
These are my hopes for our class. What are yours?
Fall 2022 Ending
We are nearing the end of this journey, and you will continue on your path.
What will you do with the knowledge you gained?
Will you save it in a file and never think about it again? Will you land your first big job or grad school application with your class undergraduate research project ideas? Will you stand up for justice? Teach others about health? Will you continue your education to make a better life for yourself? Will you end the cycle of poverty in your family or stop trauma before it starts? Will you find healing and freedom from addiction or being unwell? This is what education did for me.
Service. If we do small things each day to end our suffering and the world's suffering, we have done much. But the choice is yours. You get to decide how you will live and what you will do with your talents and gifts. Remember to cultivate your own garden in times of chaos and conflict.
Stay in touch with me. Your success matters to me. My heart is happy that you were in HEA 447 and if you are ever in Oregon, please stop by!
PS- Now that you are done with class, check out The Second Mountain by David Brooks. It might just change your life.
There is a beginning and ending to everything in our lives.... projects, contracts, and classes. Fall 2022 was a semester with 59 students and two combined classes. Thousands of emails, hundreds of assignments, and feelings that I could have done more if I just had more time. But grades are in, and class is over. Students are moving on to graduation, jobs, and the next semester.
A grieving process comes when something ends, or someone goes away. So the goal is to acknowledge the grief and loss (cry, yell, talk, ruminate, reflect, silence) and begin something new again (if you wish).
You may choose to fill this space with silence. The silence that comes after a big project or book is completed or the room in the day that opens up when the work is no longer there and our mind's desire to fill that space with more work and thinking, and the pushback of the spirit, knowing that rest is needed. Or possibly, you might find something new and connected to your heart and what you want to do with this one wonderful life you get to live.
Spring Semester 2023 at UNCG is starting in just four weeks. I am casting a big vision with engaging content, inspired students, and supportive conditions where everyone thrives. Students will receive a letter at the beginning and end…