Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: Outside the classroom

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Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos' column appears in the Craig Daily Press and the Saturday Morning Press.

We grow up in school. Although the first few years of childhood are spent at home learning how to speak in preparation for preschool, the majority of our adolescent years are spent behind desks being taught.

Not only are we taught how to comprehend the words of our textbook and transfer them into answers for tests, but we are taught how to be taught. In other words, we learn to respect authority since preschool. The front of the class near the board is the teacher's domain, the students' being the desks. When we reach the appropriate age, the roles will reverse, but until then, we will remain in our desks being taught through life and education.

We have become accustomed to these traditional practices of the classroom. This is the reason one might raise his or her hand at the dinner table as a cue to be called upon because the traditional actions in a classroom become habitual. But, how are these traditions, aside from the hand raising, reciprocated or utilized outside the classroom? Does this traditional method of teaching prepare us for the real world?

As I sat in class, I checked my phone for the fourth time in the last minute to notice that time was passing slower than I predicted. In my midday dream of the Greek islands in the summertime, crystal clear waters and fresh white sand, I was startled by the words of my professor saying, "Raftopoulos, where are you right now? What's up? Tell me what is going on."

In that moment, class shifted from a heated theory discussion to the distracting thoughts in my head. Instead of lying and pretending that I was thinking deeply about the lecture and theory, I told the class about my yearning to be in Greece that moment.

Although most would be discouraged or embarrassed by their lack of concentration in the subject matter, I was confident in my honesty. In fact, this honesty was a display of my personality. Although most students choose to leave their personalities at the door of the classroom and become a uniform group of spectators, I choose a different route. As education is meant to fill your mind with knowledge, it is also meant to provide life skills if you let it. This is the reason I do not have multiple personalities like some students who either are intimated by the setting or "too cool for school." I am the same person inside the classroom that I am outside.

I wondered if this demeanor was not only noticed but respected by my teachers until the very same teacher who called me out in class said, "Raftopoulos, you are a superstar student and have an 'A' for personality, and I respect that." I felt appreciated for being unique and not just a number and, in turn, found a different appreciation for my professors.

Some students choose to attend a large university where their faces are merely a number and their grades are displayed on a chart in comparison to that of their colleagues. And the teachers pass through class as fast as they pass through the PowerPoint slides, oftentimes never stopping to notice the back row text messaging on their cell phones or the students walking out halfway through class.

But what if they did care? Would it make a difference?

You reach a point in college when you have been in school for almost 19 years and you realize that teachers are people, too. Teachers have lives. They are not constantly answering e-mails, making lesson plans and grading papers. This is the point when a teacher becomes a student and you become the teacher and the roles of education become interchangeable.

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