teaching in alaska, as everything in my beloved, big-wild home state, comes with its own challenges. i learned quickly that nature, and the nature of things, will dictate attendance and appearance. i had students ski to class and lean the skinny tall skies against the wall as they scrambled to find a chair inside; others fat-biked across the same snowy trails, tired of waiting for people movers (our public busses) that wouldn’t arrive, or waiting for accidents on the glen highway to be cleared when the cheechakos (new to ak) try to navigate through the first snowfall or ice of the season. i had students with cerebral palsy show up in their high-tech chairs, ready to learn this complicated european language of poets and ponderers.
alaska does not do “walking distance”. even if you live in town, walking to class is rarely an option. driving is expected, especially when you live in the greater anchorage area, including eagle river, or the matanuska-susitna valley, which is over an hour in the winter. a flat tire, or a blizzard, usually means late to class, or no-show at all.
we kept a strict no-tardy policy in my class, but just as each winter is different, each class is different. one winter, it seemed like an exceptional number of students struggled coming to class on time or at all. interestingly enough, some of the people with the biggest challenges were the most driven to succeed.
there was an interesting group whose only challenge seemed to be to show up at all, although they lived on campus, and remain present. the amount of excuses for not appearing, for not having homework, for not having materials, for not being able to do an activity was baffling.
so i adjusted, and that’s where the “show up” rule was born.
the single mom who worked a 35 hour job and had a full credit load showed up. if she can do it, the single guy living with mom and dad can do it too.
the senior about to graduate with a research project and an athletic dream that required daily hours of training showed up. if she can do it, what’s holding you back?
a new student from china who barely spoke english was the first to show up and the last to leave, although he was tired, and he truly struggled understanding, and speaking. but: he showed up.
so to those who had a different excuse each week, one day i said:
if people can ski to class, if they can find rides from an hour away, even in a blizzard, just to be here, you can do this too. i don’t care what you look like, if your clothes are messy or wet, if you are mad because you missed the bus or frustrated because your car broke down and triple A can’t be here right away – it doesn’t matter. if you want to pass this class, you have to show up. even if you are late. show up. it will cost you, but even if you are late to each class, you will still be able to pass.
just. show. up.
it’s simple. show up. show up for yourself every day. brush, floss, hydrate, take notes. show up.
show up in your relationship. show up for your kids. show up for your friends. show up for what you’d rather run away from. show up.
just like my students did.