Monday, May 9, 2011

Joining the Students for their “Journey”

John N. Gardner

When I was an undergraduate, I discovered the discipline of English in my senior year. What a shame. I swear: had I taken the two profs I took for English in my senior year in my first-year instead, I would have become one of those English majors that Garrison Keillor talks about so fondly.
One of the many things I remember was the idea of having a novel’s protagonist engaged in a “journey” was a central motif of literature, not only our own, but other cultures as well, whether we were talking about the Odyssey or Huck Finn.  Same basic idea: individual growth and change while being tested during a journey.
Yesterday, my wife and I both went for a routine periodic check up with our new physician. He is new because the one we had had for nearly a decade moved out of our area and we very luckily were referred to a gentleman who strikes us as a real winner.
So my new doctor told me not once, but twice yesterday that what gives him such great meaning about his practice of medicine is the opportunity and the experience of being part of peoples’ “journey”. And he told me he would be there for me on my journey. I wanted to hear that and I needed to hear that as much at age 67 as I did at age 17 when I started college.
So this made me think: what would be the impact on our entering college students of today if we more consciously used this ancient metaphor of the journey, and just said to them, preferably repeatedly, that we were committed to being a part of their journey?
This reminded me of why so many college students like (me) to come back at Homecoming: not only to catch up with friends, but to see the faculty who told them long ago they were part of their journey.

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