Twelve hours into the 24-hour Teach-A-Thon, my colleague admitted to being tired. "This is hard," he said. "I'm used to teaching evening classes, but not after teaching all day long."
Despite his fatigue, he perked up as soon as class started, speaking with animation to a group of eight students eager to learn about Appalachian culture. He stood the whole time and never stopped moving, presenting facts and calling on students to share their stories of Appalachian life. We learned and we laughed and then some went on to other classes while others went home to sleep.
I know I couldn't teach for 24 hours straight, but two of my colleagues started teaching at 8:00 Tuesday morning and taught one 75-minute class after another until 8:00 Wednesday morning. They took a 15-minute break between classes, just long enough to visit the rest room and grab a snack before standing up in front of another group of students.
They taught all day and all night on topics as diverse as American Sign Language, Learning Social Studies through Picture Books, Diversity in the Classroom, and whether Shoeless Joe Jackson ought to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I attended the Appalachia class late last night and then came back to campus early this morning for a class in which we examined various versions of the Cinderella myth and discussed how fairy tales reflect cultural values.
I'd had a few hours of sleep but my colleague teaching the class had been teaching all night long. When we sat down around a table to examine Cinderella books, she realized that that was the first time she had sat down all night.
"This has been an undertaking," she said. She admitted that she had felt a little punch-drunk in the wee hours of the morning, but at 5:30 a.m. she was still going strong, still leading students toward understanding and insight.
Yesterday I tried to talk some colleagues into attending Teach-A-Thon classes and I kept hearing perfectly reasonable excuses: I have to prepare my own classes. I have meetings. I'm really busy. I pointed out that no one is really busy at two in the morning, but I received only patronizing smiles. What kind of idiot would attend a class at two in the morning?
The student body president is that kind of idiot. He knows where to find good teaching! He was in the class I attended Tuesday evening and in the other class I attended Wednesday morning and he had been attending one class after another all night long. Every class had at least one student and some had many more, mostly our own students but also some local public school teachers and other community residents. Eight students showed up for the 4 a.m. class.
The topic was Happiness.
I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know that eight people are willing to attend a class at 4 a.m. to support a good cause: the Pioneer Pipeline project, which brings students with disabilities to campus twice a week for mentoring and learning experiences. It's a cause worthy of full support, but that's not why I went to see my colleagues teach at times when I would normally be sleeping.
I went to class because I value teaching and I believe that anyone who can teach for 24 hours straight deserves a round of applause. These Iron-Man Teachers make me proud to be part of such a demanding and rewarding profession.
(And in case anyone was wondering, 4:30 a.m. is the time to find a great campus parking space.)