Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 17, 2013
Reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated
"Gloria, what's this I hear about you retiring?"
Talk about being startled! If I were retiring, you'd have thought I'd have known something about it.
I was at an advisory board meeting of the Kansas State University's student radio station. Another member of the board delivered the news of my impending departure.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
He explained that some of my students, who work on the TV show he directs, were talking about how emotional I was in class that day.
I had asked a fellow faculty member to take a picture of me with my class since I'm completing my 30th year of teaching. Of all the photos I've taken over the years, I don't have many with my students, and I thought it would be fun to have some. I told him I wished I'd photographed all my classes and the 2,500-3,000 students I've taught … I guess my discussion of that with my class led them to conclude I was leaving.
But I have been wondering about where all those years went? It doesn't seem that long ago. I was 29 when I began - old enough to be my students' big sister, but still young enough to understand where they were coming from. I was the youngest member of the faculty, and I was worried how some of my colleagues - who had been MY professors when I was at K-State - would react to having a young "whippersnapper" in their midst.
Now, I'm old enough to be my students' mother - or, yikes, grandmother! A couple of former students are now faculty members. About a year ago, it occurred to me that I might one day teach the children of some of my students. It happened that same fall.
So how did I end up teaching at the same university where I learned about journalism in classes and practiced it as a reporter, columnist and managing editor for the "Kansas State Collegian," the student newspaper?
I never thought about being a teacher. My dream was to be a foreign correspondent in Latin America. And for a couple of years, I was a reporter and then co-manager at a small, English-language newspaper in Costa Rica after I had polished my Spanish skills as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador.
When I came back to the U.S., I decided to get my master's in business administration to learn more about management, finance, marketing and accounting so I could run a newspaper of my own someday.
But just as I was completing my MBA, the perfect opportunity came along - a position as advertising director of K-State's Student Publications. I utilized my newly-acquired business knowledge to help students market the paper and sell advertising. I also taught news classes for the journalism and mass communications program. It seemed to be a match made in heaven.
Thirty years down the road and I'm still here! It all seems to have passed in a blink of an eye.
I've "re-invented" myself several times, so it hasn't become boring. Sometimes the changes were small - I've had at least four different offices. Other changes were larger - I stepped down as ad director of Student Publications in 1998 to take over the helm of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media. I usually plan two or three events each year. And I've taught a variety of classes in news and advertising.
By far, my favorite class is News and Feature Writing, the beginning news writing class our students are required to take to move up in the curriculum. It's writing-intensive, which also means it's grading-intensive. And there's a lot to teach in just one semester - how to do background research, interview people, write a good lead, use Associated Press style, cover a meeting or a speech, cover disasters, localize international stories, use diverse sources ... The list goes on. But as the weeks go by, it's gratifying to see students' interviewing and writing skills improve and their confidence levels rise.
I suppose most would consider me to be a tough grader. In fact, student evaluations over the years have shown that to be true.
"This should not be an introductory course. The expectations and standards were absolutely too high because none of us are going to be as good a writer as Mrs. Freeland since we do not have her background …"
"This class required so much outside of class. The professor acted as if we didn't have other things to be working on and expected too much from college kids …"
But other students were more positive.
"Gloria has been, by far, my favorite instructor at K-State. She has motivated me and provided so much information and insight, both in and out of the class, which will help me as I progress through school and beyond …"
In my first few years of teaching, it hurt my feelings if I got negative comments. Now, I find it amusing that my evaluations can range from "Freeland is the worst ..." to "Freeland is the best ..."
My philosophy of teaching is something I heard a long time ago: "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
So am I ready to retire? Well there are days - particularly cold, snowy ones or ones with faculty meetings seemingly without end - when I would like to pull the covers over my head and just stay home. And every semester, there are a few students who add to the number of gray hairs I have.
Yet most days, I still love working with students and feel they keep me young!
But whatever kind of day it is, the reports of my retirement have definitely been exaggerated!
Left: Some of the people I worked with got together for a party during my second year teaching at K-State; right: Grading papers during fall 1983 - my first year at K-State - accompanied by Chadwick, our adopted cat.