We’re about halfway through December now, which means that I’ve had about a half a dozen opportunities to talk to people about the strange results of DePaul’s quarter system.  Because quarters are only 11 weeks long and the fall quarter starts in early September, we have the entire month of December free of classes.  So when I talk to parents at my daughter’s school who know I’m in academia, they usually ask if I’m “off” now and express great envy about the fact that I don’t have to teach for six weeks after Thanksgiving.

During these conversations I certainly acknowledge that I’m lucky to have the flexibility that I do, but I also explain that there really is no such thing as being “off” for me.  I have courses to prepare for the winter quarter, papers to write, advising that can’t wait until January, etc.  What’s harder to explain is that I wouldn’t want to be away from my work for six weeks.  Once during a Discover Chicago class I taught, we were doing an ice breaker that involved having the students describe their ideal job.  One of the students asked me to answer the question, and I told him that I had that job already.  I couldn’t imagine anything better suited for me than being a professor.  That I stumbled into this job is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

In my interactions with students one of the most heartbreaking things I see is when they aren’t following their passion for whatever reason.  Maybe their parents have pushed them in a certain direction, or they think that they aren’t suited to what they really love, or they’re afraid of going out on a limb.  And some of them haven’t found that passion.  So when I can I encourage them to do what they love.  Even better are the instances when I introduce them to a subject that brings them joy, like this accounting major who was in my Python class this fall:

I like CSC 241 much more than I’ve ever liked any class before.  Much more.  I think the style of thinking required for computer science fits my skill set way better than anything else.

He wrote me that in an e-mail asking if he could possibly fit in a computer science minor since it was too late for him to switch majors.  It made me very happy to be able to tell him that it would work, and I can’t wait to see him in the second quarter of Python in January.

That I have the privilege to witness people discovering what they love to do is just one of the things I adore about my job.