Who Are You?

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“Who Are You?” –These are the words of a text message I received recently in response to a work-related request. I responded back, “Katie Winkler.” No message came back. It was a little thing and was not meant to offend. It’s not important in the grand scheme of things, but it is symbolic of the way I feel sometimes as an instructor at a community college.

Who are you to ask questions about the college’s policies and procedures developed by those with little or no educational background?

Who are you to request materials to support the recruitment of students at a college with declining enrollment?

Who are you to question the expenditure of nearly a quarter of a million dollars on an initiative that many studies show leads to little improvement in retention and completion rates?

Who are you, Katie Winkler?

I am an instructor who comes in early and stays late, even though I am not required to. I am an instructor who works on the weekends grading papers and writing instructional material for my online class because I’ve been interrupted throughout the week by non-instructional tasks, reports, and meetings when I wasn’t teaching and preparing for my seated classes. I am an instructor who tries to answer student e-mails within a few hours of receiving them, even on the weekend.  I am an instructor who works throughout the summer on my classes, even though I am not being paid because I want my students to have the best possible experience while keeping an insane grading load manageable. I am an instructor who cares.

Who are you, Katie Winkler?

Even though you have worked at an institution for over 20 years, people still ask you how many of those years were full-time as if your adjunct years were of no value. You are asked to take minutes as soon as you walk through the door for your first meeting on a new committee when the room is already full of other people. Your integrity is questioned concerning your instruction, your travel, your compensation and your intentions. You are accused of being uncooperative in open meetings by people who rarely communicate with you except to criticize you. You are frequently chastised by members of support staff for mistakes you make in filling out forms that have little to do with actual instruction, even though the procedures for filling out said forms are unclear. You are asked to make your own appointments when you have questions of support staff. You are often interrupted on a whim, without regard to students who might need your assistance. You are an instructor who is forced to send maintenance request to get toilet paper and hand soap in a bathroom frequented by students but no one else. You are a little person with little power who is considered to be of little worth and quite a thorn in the side of many because you demand to be heard on behalf of yourself, your colleagues and your students.

But who are you, really, Katie Winkler?

You are respected by your immediate supervisor, your close colleagues and your students. You are a gifted instructor in class and online who regularly holds 75% to 80% retention rates in online classes. You have made a positive difference in the lives of your colleagues and students. You are a good collaborator who is willing to learn and adapt to new methods and technologies for the sake of your students.

You are dedicated, determined, knowledgeable, well-read, kind, long-suffering, stubborn, assertive, whiny, strong-willed, caring, cooperative, impulsive, decisive, intelligent, self-effacing, witty, maternal, greatly flawed but self-assessing and driven to improve.

Who are you, Katie Winkler?

You are wife, mother, writer, actor, preacher, counselor, nurse, adviser, editor, chef, reviewer, director, mentor and friend.

You are a good teacher.

Sometimes I just have to remind myself.

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