Magazine Reflections

Do You Keep an Object to Inspire Your Teaching?

If so, what and why?

Winter 2024

I have many objects on my desk, including family photos, gifts from students, flags from Pride parades, and small objects from conferences and different trips. All are meaningful and connect me to relationships, cherished communities, and valued responsibilities. But my ceramic croft house is probably my favorite. It makes me think of my ancestors from the northwest corner of Scotland, who survived the Highland Clearances. The croft house reminds me that I am here because my ancestors wanted me to be here. I am here because of their strength.

—Laura Beard, University of Alberta

I keep multiple special objects in my office that inspire my work both as an administrator and as an art instructor. They all have one thing in common: they are the creations of my past students. One, a ceramic cup made by a student, reminds me that I gave her the only B she ever earned. That grade motivated her to push herself further, and it encouraged me to develop better rubrics to explain my grading process. Other objects remind me of specific interactions with other students and their growth as artists.

—Margaret Doell, Adams State University

I have a printout with a quote from Winston Churchill on my bulletin board, “This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Every time I look at it, I find the inspiration to move forward and complete the task regardless of difficult circumstances or challenges I encounter. Words of wisdom indeed!

—Visty P. Dalal, Southern New Hampshire University

I keep an old photograph of my daughter Karen and our dog Muffin on my desk to remind myself that I am privileged to have happy and healthy children and pets that add love to my life. That helps me remember that even though many students have had terrible experiences, they still show up to class, work hard, graduate, and hopefully go on to have a brighter future. Many times, as faculty, we do not think about or know what our students are enduring. Because of my desire to help my students, I come to work every day with enthusiasm.

—Karen V. Gonzalez-Charneco, Universidad Ana G. Méndez

The first real class I taught in higher education was a GED prep course. It was an amazing group of students who inspired me every day. I felt that I was truly helping them reach their goals. On the last day, they presented me with a glass plaque engraved with a simple message, “Thank You from Your Class of 2015.” The plaque has been on my desk for eight years. It reminds me of the power of education and of caring teachers.

—Emily Sharma, Dallas College

A plaque with the statement “I am still learning” sits on my desk. It inspires my teaching and my scholarship and suggests that there are endless opportunities still to come. As a professor, I constantly seek new content and innovative instructional strategies to enhance my learning and my students’ education. As a scholar, I collaborate with colleagues within and outside of my institution to share insights and explore new ideas. Things change quickly in the discipline of education. Ongoing learning is a must for educators and for the future professionals we teach.

—Billi L. Bromer, Brenau University

I keep a poster in my office that I pulled out of a children’s book. It’s of the Sesame Street gang huddled together under an umbrella during a storm. It reminds me that we’re all in this together and helps me focus on the values I try to uphold. It’s an old poster. Elmo’s there, but so are Mumford, Barkley, and Snuffy. We can all aspire to the caring natures of these characters from Sesame Street.

—Jonathan Kadjeski, Kings College