When I meet any social work class, I am always a little apprehensive. It does not matter if it is the first class or a class toward the end of the semester—I am equally a little apprehensive. I have questions about myself—will I be able to help them understand what it is I think they need to know? Will what I say today make any sense to them? Can I really help them understand these important social work concepts? However, as the apprehension lessens, I become a thief. I look at their faces and think, “How can I get what they have?” So I become an apprehensive thief who hides his true intentions in carefully-crafted lesson plans.
What they have are fears, anxieties, hopes, determination, sadness, joy—all of these and more, and they translate it into energy that I can hear and take for my very own if I truly listen when they speak and when they do not. If I am good at it, I mean, if I am the thief I really want to be, they will think they are responding to my remarks, and they will not have any idea at all that they have just let me take from them something very precious—the wisdom of their youth, or the wisdom of their years, their very essence that makes a classroom come alive. But fear not as what I take from them replenishes itself instantly. A new day comes, another class comes, and I am able to do it all over again.
Students come into the classroom deserving something from me. They deserve more, certainly, than me simply expounding on theories, demonstrating my vast knowledge of the subject of social work; what they deserve is that I am an honest person who believes in himself and who knows and reveals that he does not have all the answers–and who does not want all the answers. When they look at me, I hope they see someone who is as imperfect as they are, but someone who will always be doing his best, just as they will always be doing their best, and someone who is smiling after each class as he walks away with arms laden with treasure.