Monday, April 21, 2008

The last class at Indiana University

I don't remember exactly how I felt during the first day of class at Indiana University. It was nine years ago, and it was an undergraduate class. I had almost 180 students in class. What I still remember are students' faces. They looked uncertain, curious, disappointed, uninterested, tired, etc. I have been really curious about students' first impression on me. While no single student would be amazed by my good looking face, they might wonder about this professor who has an Asian face and speaks strong Korean accent. Some students might be tempted to drop the class. Other students might think that their instructor might be one of the Bruce Lee's cousins who may give them some tips for nice side kicks.

I really cannot guess what students thought of me in my first class at IU. I never asked about it. However, I can easily talk about my last class at IU, since it happened a few days ago. It was one of the graduate classes entitled "Introduction to Research Methods" and students came from applied health sciences, kinesiology, and recreation. I had a few PhD students, too. As this was one of the distance learning classes, we also filmed the lectures and sent DVD to distance learning students.

At the end of 2 hours and 30 minutes lecture (we used to take 10 min break), I was expecting that students would leave the room like a bullet. On that last day, students did not leave and they smiled at me. I felt really awkward. As I did not have dinner before the class, I was thinking of eating a delicious Korean meal at home. In my mind, I was exclaming: "please let me go!!!"

As Katie, one of doctoral students in athletic training, brought pizza into the studio (the classroom), students were clapping their hands (probably due to their excitement for pizza or freedom from me...). All of sudden, students expressed their appreciations and passed me a thank-you card (I was able to see all the names and signatures of the students!). Before I ate pizza, I paused for giving thanks to the LORD for food. As I opened my eyes, I began to hear a song entitled "To sir with love." Everybody was quiet and encouraged me to hear the song. When I heard the following lyric, I cried. I could not control it.
"... And as I leave I know that I am leaving my best friend. A friend who taught me right from wrong and weak from strong, that's a lot to learn. What what can I give you in return? If you wanted the moon I would try to make a star. But I would rather you let me give my heart To sir with love..."

Why did I cry? I don't know. I was thankful to the LORD who has blessed me to become a teacher and let me serve students. Well, I am thinking now that I cried because the pizza was so delicious. Students said "Dr. Lee, we are eating the best pizza in town." Yes, that's why I cried.

A couple days later, one student sent e-mail to all students with attachment files: all the pictures we took. In his e-mail, he wrote: "It was a very good event and I hope it will be in everyone's memory for long time..." Another student replied: "... The party was a great way to honor our professor who has touched all of our lives with his knowledge, passion for teaching, his positive encouragement and the way he lives his faith by example..." I cried again. Why? I did not have that delicious pizza in front of me, and that's why!

With this posting, I am bragging. Don't get me wrong, though. I am not bragging about myself. I am bragging about my LORD who has blessed me as a teacher, gave me joy of teaching, and entrusted me this wonderful group of students to serve. I love you, LORD!

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