Today was the 2013 DePaul Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference. The theme this year was “Reflect, Renew, Recharge: Teaching Sustainably to Prepare Lifelong Learners,” and I enjoyed everything I attended. I was thrilled, and surprised given the great sessions scheduled opposite us, that so many people attended my co-presenter and I’s panel. But as usual it was the interactions with my fellow attendees that had the biggest impact on me.
In the morning session immediately following the keynote I attended an interactive presentation on informal learning communities facilitated by two people from the Center to Advance Education for Adults at the School for New Learning. One of their activities had us interviewing each other, and I was paired with someone who teaches in the psychology department and the Theatre School. We were investigating learning communities, and my partner indicated that her chosen learning community was her synagogue. She said that without a rabbi that they all share responsibility for readings and commentaries each week, but that it was particularly the humility displayed by the highly educated, distinguished, and elderly members of her synagogue that enabled her to learn so much.
This was an absolute revelation to me, because it crystallized something that I’ve felt for a long time but never been able to articulate. The colleagues, both at DePaul and more broadly, who impress me the most and who inspire me to be my best are those who show humility. They don’t think they know it all. They recognize and acknowledge their flaws and failings at the same time that they work to improve them. They don’t think that they are better or more talented or more distinguished than anyone else and treat everyone with equal respect. And it’s precisely the people who don’t show humility, who let their ego get the better of them, who annoy me the most. The latter are louder and more easily noticeable, almost by definition, but the former are most definitely present. And it’s made me decide that, among faculty, humility is the highest virtue of all, enabling so many other positive characteristics to shine through.