Today, I gave the first of two final exams I will be giving this week. The four students in my Old Testament Survey class all aced it. This either means that I am a brilliant professor or that I am too soft and of course I am leaning toward the former explanation. This has been the most painless semester I’ve had so far. The students have shown up on time (for the most part), asked good questions, and seemed to be genuinely interested in what they were learning. There have been some surprises along the way, too. For instance, one student effusively expressed his appreciation in class for the quizzes I’ve been handing out every two weeks. This may have been the first time in recorded history that a student has ever thanked a professor for a test, but I am glad he enjoys them. The truth is that they help me as much as they help the students. It is helpful to have to regularly boil down what I am teaching to the essential questions.
After administering an exam to my English class on Thursday afternoon, I will officially be on Christmas break. Beyond studying for the three classes I’ll be teaching in the spring, I don’t really have any plans. My parents and I traveled a lot last year so this year, we are having a “stay-cation,” saving money while enjoying Haiti’s beautiful winter weather (75 and sunny). While I’m more than happy to avoid the cold this year, I am a little jealous of my brother, who will be flying from Oregon to West Virginia over Christmas to see my sister, her husband, and my eight-month-old nephew, Sam.
Next semester, I will be teaching three classes instead of the normal two. I will have Gospel & Epistles of John (a class I taught last year, fortunately, so I already have notes written for it), English II, and Old Testament Survey Part II. I think I am hitting my stride as a teacher and I am looking forward to being a little busier than usual next semester. There are so many small inconveniences here compared to working in the U.S. (For example, a couple of months ago, I spent quite a while setting up a PowerPoint presentation only to realize when I brought the projector to class that there was no electricity. Later, when they gave electricity, I was excited until I realized that even though the lights were on overhead, the wall outlets didn’t work.) There are also things you don’t ordinarily have to deal with in the States (such as students not showing up for a couple of weeks while they scrape together the money to pay the next installment on their tuition). The payoff of working here, however, is being able to give students something they don’t usually get (at least not for the price we ask)–high standards and a good theological education. I am working for free (literally), but as my student’s appreciation for something as mundane as a quiz shows, most people here don’t take a good thing for granted.
Of course, one implication of working for free is that I need to receive support from somewhere else. So far this year, I’ve spent about $3,000 more than I’ve taken in. Fortunately, I had a solid reserve from the first year of fundraising to draw upon, but I’ll still need to see things turn around before long to be able to stay here. Would you consider putting me on your Christmas list this year, or partnering with me for monthly support? I can promise you that I won’t take a good thing for granted, either.