Monday, February 1, 2016

Dr. Faulkner: Words from a Student

I often receive communication from students.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a complaint or a problem.  But very often it comes in the form of gratitude and appreciation for what the college community has contributed to the student’s life.  I received this e-mail from Logan Jernigan before the holiday break.  It affirms for me why our number one Core Value is “students matter.”  With Logan’s permission I have included his e-mail below.

Dear Volunteer State Community College,

I'd like to thank you. Thank you for the good times and the bad times. I've been here for three years now, and graduating this December.  I've realized, in a weird way, that I'm going to miss this quaint little campus. I've learned more about myself in these three years than I ever have in years prior. I've met so many wonderful people on my journey. From professors to fellow students, I've been inspired eternally.

Frances Bennett was one of my first professors, and assisted me tremendously while taking MATH 810. On our first test, we weren't allowed to use a calculator. I was distraught. I've always struggled whenever it comes to math, and not being able to use a calculator to assist me, I was destined for failure. If I remember correctly in order to move on in the course you had to earn a 75% and higher and if my memory serves me, I made an 18% on my test. Due to an immense overwhelming feeling of embarrassment I just sat in my chair, staring at the computer screen, too ashamed to ask Mrs. Bennett to reopen the test to try again. She soon approached me, saw what I had earned, and asked if I'd like to join her at her desk. I was quiet. Whenever she opened my test on her computer I began to cry, disappointed at my inability to complete the task at hand. I felt so inadequate. She comforted me, reassured me that I was capable, and taught me great techniques when faced with difficult equations. After about my second or third try, I completed the test, without a calculator, scoring high enough to move on to the next unit. Without her assistance, encouragement, and passion I wouldn't have passed the course.

Michelle Vandiver-Lawrence was my foreign language professor and she taught me in both Spanish I and II. Her energy and passion for not only what she taught but for life itself was so inspiring. She had an eccentric, unique style of teaching which really set her apart. During Spanish I, I was unsure of my future as I had recently changed majors and was overwhelmed by the thought of having to start all over again. I discussed some of my concerns with her. While doing so, she asked if I'd like to take a walk. A walk around the campus is what we took. We walked and talked about school, life, traveling, affirmations, family, everything really. I will never forget how candid she was and how she genuinely seemed to care about my well-being, taking time out of her busy schedule to take a walk around the campus grounds to simply allow me to get a lot off of my mind. I'm forever inspired by her.

Daniel Kelley was my English comp II professor. My English comp I professor was a poor example of how a teacher should conduct themselves, and I was concerned that my English Comp II professor would be similar. I was proven wrong. In the beginning of the course he had all of the students gather around in a circle. We had to state our names, majors, and something interesting about ourselves like a hobby or hidden talent or something. By the end of the class we had to recite everyone's name, majors, and their interesting fact. It really helped ease first day of class anxiety and allowed all of the students to bond in a unique way. I could still probably recite everyone's name from that class. During this course we were required to write a ten page argumentative research paper. Sounds like a lot right? Not exactly. Professor Kelley broke down the paper into parts. He'd allow us to turn in rough drafts and we were to schedule an appointment with him so he could discuss with each student one on one what was good and what wasn't so good and would allow us to turn in a final copy of our revised first draft. I never really had a professor dedicate so much time into making sure his students were staying on track and doing well with their assignment. He really wanted us to succeed and that was comforting to know.

Stephen Gallup was my psychology professor. He was a big man with a big voice and an even bigger heart. He was passionate about psychology and you could see it. He always emphasized the importance of empathy. He also really loved his students and I've run into him after many semesters have passed and he talks to me, recognizing my face and even remembering my name.

Wanda Grimes was my literature professor. She was a very intelligent, kind woman who spoke with such eloquence and thoroughly enjoyed discussion. Unfortunately, I struggled with putting myself out there and got really anxious whenever it came to in class discussion. I'm much better at writing my thoughts, so sometimes after class dismissed I'd email what I got out of the poem or short story we were assigned to read and she'd reply, making me feel as if I really did understand the assignment and would encourage me to open up in class as I had made great points.

Billy Dye was my biology professor. On our first day of class he lectured to us not on biology, but life. He encouraged us to take advantage of the opportunity that is education. He was very passionate not only about science but about our time here at college. He was very intelligent but not in a way that intimidated students, in a way that lured you in and made you want to learn. He always implored that if we ever had any trouble, to schedule a meeting with him as he'd really enjoy assisting us.

Last but not least, Dana Davis for being a great advisor through the years. On my journey at Volstate, I've also met many students, all pursuing the same thing; an opportunity for a better future. The students I remember most all inspired me for different and similar reasons. Abby, Alexa, Alexia, Ann, Brenda, Caitlin, Carrie, Cliff, Collin, Cheyanne, Holly, Jenny, Josh, Libby, Lindsay, Mandy, Natalie, Nicole, Priscilla, Ray, Robert, Sam and many more. Some of the things I've learned from them are things that will forever benefit me.

Speaking of learning a thing or two, how about I discuss some of the things I've learned while in attendance? The most comforting words a student can hear are: "I haven't started on it either." I've learned that procrastination never gets you the best results. Sometimes decent results, but who wants to settle for anything less than best.  Am I right? As easy as it is to procrastinate, try and opt out of doing so before it's too late. Trust me on this one. I've also learned to open my mind. I'm more open to pretty much everything now, ranging from the genres of music I listen to and literature I read to listening to people's opinions on certain topics, whether I agree with them or not. I've fallen in love with people. I enjoy talking to people now, as I feel I've learned how to properly do so. I used to be so shy, but am no longer. I love to talk, and feel capable of striking up a conversation with just about anyone willing to do so. I want to know people's life story. I could listen to someone talking about their life, failures, dreams and goals, and anything else they feel comfortable discussing all day long. Although I will forever be challenged in the math and science departments, I feel overall that I've become more intelligent, especially in the "communications" department. I feel more confident about myself. I think that students who go to school, work, and have children deserve more than a degree. They deserve a Medal of Honor of some sort. It's hard enough being a working part time student, I couldn't imagine being a full time student with the responsibilities of working as well as raising a family. Another important thing I've learned is that until you learn not to compare your journey with that of others you will never be content. I used to compare my life to that of others, whether it was old friends from high school who were getting married or getting accepted into the program that I failed to do so or students in my college classes who seemed to have their lives together, a plan, and always passed their assignments and tests with ease. I convinced myself that they were better than me and I would never get to their level or be good enough. Life is a journey, not a competition. Everyone struggles, no matter how perfect their life may appear. Just because you're not at the same level in life achievements as a friend or family member doesn't mean you won't ever be. Just be content with yourself and where you are, work hard towards your goals and your dreams will eventually become a reality. "When you wish for someone else's life, you waste the limited life energy you've got to face your own challenges and opportunities." - Lysa TerKeurst.

One of the most important things I've learned is that my worth is not determined by a grade earned on a test, like the math test mentioned earlier. The American education system has some things that need fixing. We spend more money on education than any other country in the world but whenever it comes to the leader boards we rank so low. From elementary school until high school graduation, the amount of standardized tests we were required to take was ridiculous. After taking the ACT test three times, my highest score being an 18, I truly felt like my intellect was determined by a test. In order to get certain scholarships and even be accepted into some colleges/universities one has to score a 21 or above on their ACT. Even in college, for a majority of my courses, we'd cram in as much content as possible for one test and then move on to new, different content for the next test, leaving the old material in the dust to be forgotten about all too soon until it was time for finals, where comprehensive exams were required, forcing us to study and regurgitate so much information that we learned in such a short semester. It's easy to believe ones worth is determined by a test when that's really all he or she is being graded on. Here are a few personal qualities a test doesn't determine: Empathy, creativity, leadership, compassion, self-awareness, resilience, motivation, enthusiasm, reliability, resourcefulness, sense of wonder, and humility. Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant minds of all time said: "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." I think it's time we start thinking of a different education system, first getting rid of the amount of tests students are having to take in order to make the grade and feel adequate. I think college should be more hands on. I want to be able to choose a career path and get in the trenches as soon as possible. You're not going to learn what you're going to be doing for the rest of life by writing papers and studying notes from a PowerPoint presentation. You learn most from hands on experience. Now that's tuition I'd be willing to pay for.

Now back to giving thanks. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank my parents. I could not have done it without their constant encouragement, assistance, reassurance, and love. They're unconditional love for me and our family is so beautiful and inspiring. They're the two most selfless people I've ever known. They have become my motivation and I want nothing more than to make them proud. You wouldn't believe how many students had told me that they're in school because their parents are forcing them to go. I couldn't imagine having to do something I disliked simply to receive approval from my parents. Although I complained a lot during my time here at school, I really did enjoy being a Volunteer State Community college student. I've learned more about life and myself than any subject and I think that's so important.
I'm currently undecided and in over $10,000 in student loan debt without a plan as to what I want to do, I don't find it practical getting into any more debt simply to pursue the "college experience" at a university. Unfortunately I missed the Tennessee Promise by a couple of years, and will start paying back my student loan debt soon. I used to be so afraid of my future. The future is quite terrifying. It's so uncertain. But you know what else is uncertain? Adventures. I'm now viewing my future as an adventure and instead of being so scared of it I'm embracing it, thrilled by what's around the corner for me. It will be tough, but that's life. Am I right? I've decided that no matter what's thrown my way, I'm going to take it with a smile on my face and from a positive, I could learn something from this attitude.

Everything happens for a reason, I truly believe in this. So again, thank you. Thank you for teaching me things I couldn't have learned otherwise. I wish anyone whose reading this the best of luck in all of your future endeavors, keep up the good work, follow your heart, and never give up on something YOU want. I can't wait to keep learning more and more about myself as time progresses! 

A now former VSCC student,

Logan Jernigan

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