Long story short: to meet some guidelines allowing my lab course to have a writing flag, I had to add an assignment. It needed to be short and useful, because the course is already too much work for one hour of credit. I came up with a 1-page essay on “What I Want to Do with My Life,” followed by a 15 minute, 1 on 1 appointment with me to discuss it.
Turns out, this assignment is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I have discovered myriad benefits of which I could never have dreamed. I will get several complaints that I don’t give enough info (font, spacing margins, etc.) and it drives some type-A’s nuts. This gives me a chance to explain that in the real world, when the boss wants a 2 page progress report, they don’t care about formatting aside from good spelling, grammar and readability—they just want the info, and the page length indicates how much time they want to spend on it. I also use it to reveal to students how in the real world, they are always being evaluated, even on things that aren’t explicitly spelled out, as a way of measuring maturity and professionalism, so they always need to pay attention to detail and their p’s and q’s.
Many don’t have a clue, even as seniors, what to do with their lives, and no clue how to figure it out. There is a general sense of needing a job, but not a vision for their lives. I have had the privilege and blessing of helping them find tools to discover one. Many are astounded that a faculty member would take this kind of time for them and are grateful for the personalized discussion.
I always end by giving them an opportunity to ask me any question they want. Often, it is something along the lines of “Well, how did you get to where you are today?” As my faith is central to the story, having nearly gone to seminary at several points, it gives me a chance to identify myself as a Christian to them individually, and has often led to some great conversations and spiritual guidance. It is a great comfort to Christian students when they discover one of their instructors is also a believer. And when a non-believing student discovers I’m a Christian in the very context of ministering to a secular need of theirs, it is a strong testimony. They already see I’m different because I meet with them, and now they can see why.
If I were to choose one saying as a life motto, it is from St. Francis, “Always share your faith. If necessary, use words.”