SAAHE Recognition Ceremony—Latz Comments (from the faculty)—April 24, 2015
When I was first thinking about crafting a mini-speech for this evening, my first instinct was to buy cartons and cartons of big Play-Doh cans and snack crackers—peanut butter on toasty crackers—and throw these things out to everyone all over the room. And that would be it. But then I thought about how many people would be here, how much that would cost, and various kinds of liability related to throwing things at folks, so I decided against it. However, it would have been fun—and kind of simple yet powerful, but, hey.
So instead I decided to ruminate on some of the most important writers I go to when I think about teaching and my faculty life—yes, it’s my life—and the students with whom I work. So this short talk is going to be part poem, part creative nonfiction, and part quotations from others. I hope you like it.
When I first began this job, I had no clue.
I had no clue that I would cross paths with each and all of you.
And right now it seems we’ve experienced some kind of communion.
And perhaps in some years we’ll all be having a reunion.
But I’d like to spend some time expressing my adoration.
It’s respect, it’s a kind of love, it’s admiration.
Creative Nonfiction 1.
I always tell people I adore my students—because it’s true. And to adore someone means to deeply respect and love that person. I Googled it, so. And, that is how I feel. I respect your willingness to endure and learn and stretch and grow and adventure and sacrifice and work hard. And I—dare I say we, as your faculty—we also love you. It’s a kind of a parent/caretaker-child love. I imagine. I have no children. I have two dogs, however. And I love them. Or maybe it’s a kind of sibling love? Um, but I have no siblings, so I wouldn’t really know about that either. Or maybe it’s a cool aunt-niece/nephew love? Well, because I have no siblings, I have no nieces or nephews, so that’s out too. Maybe it’s a teammate kind of love. That I know about. It’s an unconditional kind of love that represents the notion that we are bound to and up in each other’s learning, processes, vulnerabilities, successes, failures, movements, performances, and futures. Yes, this is what I know about. I know so much about teams! And you are like my teammates. We don’t always agree; we’re sometimes on different pages. But we are here together, and we can only go together. And at the core, we cannot go anywhere without deep respect and some kind of love.
What I just said is both a preface and a reflection on the following words written by Parker Palmer in his book, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life:
“When we are willing to abandon our self-protective professional autonomy and make ourselves as dependent on our students as they are on us, we move closer to the interdependence that the community of truth requires.”
A community of truth is a beautiful phrase for team.
There is so much wonder and potential in this room, in this space.
My challenge for you right now would be to slow down your steps but quicken the pace.
I need you to take the time to slow down time.
You’re incredibly fit. You’re so ready to run. But just walk up to the starting line.
Things will happen fast and slow.
So please, please, please, take from us everything we know.
Creative Nonfiction 2.
When I first started this job in August of 2011, I spent a lot of time preparing myself. And I prepared in all the wrong ways. But I figured things out eventually. One thing I did right was craft a list of rules or axioms upon which I wanted to center my work. One of the rules was: Put students first. I remember writing that because it served me so well up to that point. Gave me perspective. But when I was teaching at Ivy Tech Community College, I was a teacher. Just a teacher. In my current role, I am a teacher—but I am also a researcher and a provider of service to my department, college, university, and professional organizations. Worried I would not prioritize the very people who prompted me to pursue this teaching life in the first place, I wrote the rule. I mean, publish or perish is a real thing. During my first year in this position, one of my students asked me if I was going to keep it up or if I was going to become just another professor who gets so far into their own heads they forget to see students. I’m paraphrasing. It was an underhanded compliment, but I was actually really offended at first. I think about that all the time; it moves me. But what moves me so much more is you, and you, and you. I can’t get too far into my own head because your excellence demands my focus. Do you know just how consistently you exceed my expectations? You do. Moreover, I need you to learn from this story, this rule. Please. Put students first. It’s not easy, and it’s not always, but it’s everything. It’s better to be in trouble with others than to be in trouble with yourself.
In Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, bell hooks wrote:
“Love will always move us away from domination in all its forms. Love will always challenge and change us. This is the heart of the matter.”
And this quotation provides me with a framework to think about where I am, where you are, and where I’d like you to go. It dips between what I’ve just said and what we all need to do next. When we meet again, I hope you tell me you adore your students. When we meet again, I hope you put students first. When we meet again, I hope this remains the heart of the matter—for both of us.