My First Grad-Child
NOTE: The names in this story are used with permission.
One of the absolute joys that came with ending my career in education as a professor for the last 14 years was the students—most practicing teachers. We got to know each other really well. Many of them I taught a half-dozen times in various courses. Many late-night phone calls. Dozens of meetings at coffee shops for far too many reasons to list. And lots of, “Dr. D., Can I ask you a question after class” hourlong discussions. I loved my students dearly (somewhat unusual in graduate school), and one of the great joys of this last stage of my career has been seeing their aspirations come true.
I always dreaded and enjoyed in equal measure the first night of a new class of new students. Everybody was uncomfortable with everyone else. Students feared having a “jerk-professor,” and I dreaded having a classroom full of “know-it-alls” who would not listen. Thankfully, in my fourteen years, I only had one of those classes, and I was as glad to see that semester over as they were to be done with me. However, this trip down classroom lane is not about that one negative, but about one of the greatest rewards to come my way.
Most every semester, I taught at least one afternoon-night class off-campus. This particular fall semester, I was teaching about 20 miles south of Charlotte at Porter Ridge High School in Union County.
It was the end of August. I already had my laptop and PowerPoint set up in down the hall from the office and one right turn and the 3rd classroom on the right. Social studies classroom, I think. It could have been in any classroom because I was going to start the first class the same way.
I went down the rows and asked each student to tell me a few things about themselves: 1) what name they preferred, 2) where they currently worked, and 3) what they wanted to achieve in the future. Typical stuff.
On this warm August afternoon, I had gone about halfway down the 15 or so students—most of them elementary teachers—and I came to Leigh Ann Worley. “Leigh Ann, tell us about yourself,” I said.
“My name is Leigh Ann Worley,” she said. “I teach 5th grade. My husband is soon returning from Afghanistan, and my goal is to get knocked up before Christmas.”
Yep, that was Leigh Ann Worley in all her glory. But she didn’t stop there.
“We are also going to have a proper Catholic wedding,” she said. “I have been living in sin because we ran away and got married in the Dominican Republic. I am a good Catholic, and I want to make it official in a Catholic Church. The first time we were married by a priest, but it was on the beach.”
I need not tell you that the class had to take a break after that before we could go on with the rest of the introductions!
As you might expect, this course was to be a more laid-back version of Introduction to Leadership than usual. I don’t think Leigh Ann’s friends in the class were surprised, but this professor was. And not many things leave me speechless, but Leigh Ann Worley succeeded that afternoon!
As the semester progressed I was to learn that Leigh Ann had just started. After her husband, Scott came home in October, Leigh Ann came to class with a smile on her face every week! But she always had a smile about most everything in life except for some of my feedback on her papers!
In November, Leigh Ann came in early before one class to tell me that she was going to have to give herself a shot of Lovenox each night during class to treat a genetic blood clotting disorder.
And about halfway of each class, Leigh Ann would ease to the back of the room and pull down the side of her jeans just so the top of her hip was showing, give herself an injection, and ease back to her desk resume taking notes. Class did not miss a beat.
Still not the end of the story. We finished the semester in grand style. This was a remarkable class of teachers who knew just how far to take arguments and disagreements. And as importantly, how to laugh.
As fate would have it, I had the same students again the next semester, and before our first class in mid-January, I found a copy of a sonogram on my desk.
My first grad-son, Cabe Worley, was born on August 15, 2011. Cabe is Irish for warrior—perfect since his daddy had just returned from fighting.