(Reprinted from May 2013 Newsletter to the Blog)
Before the start of the Spring semester, I was working with one of my professors to clean up his dictionary and solve problems, just as I would do in Cameroon.
He asked me if I was scheduled to take Field Data Management, and I was. Next thing I knew, he’d gotten approval for me to be a Teacher’s Assistant instead of taking the class.
Field Data Management (FDM) is a co-requisite to the capstone course, Field Methods. Field methods would see us collecting and analyzing our assigned languages from the ground up, and FDM covers the computer skills needed to catalog, organize, and publish the data.
Students studied African languages (Feʔfeʔ and Laari), Korean, Mandarin Chinese, or Egyptian Arabic. We would have plenty of data to analyze in my team, but rather than being a student in the second course, I’d have to do the work on my own time. This course was exactly the material that I’d had the blessing to teach in Cameroon, and I could always use the experience.
As spring arrived, I partnered with the professor, Marlin Leaders, to update materials and prepare for the class. We decided to test a new and exciting, yet risky, collaboration feature to help out our developers. I spent days stress-testing the new features in preparation for our students and sending in detailed bug reports.
No more than a week into the class, Professor Leader’s son fell dangerously ill in California. A meeting was called, and it was decided that Marlin could go to California, and I would carry the course until he returned. I already had experience teaching the tools at hand in Cameroon, and I actually had already taught a similar course at a seminary in Cameroon.
As the weeks passed, it became clear that Marlin might not be back. I was tech support, teacher, and my own TA. Mornings were spent with the students and afternoons were spent with the software developers fixing problems that had developed. What I had expected to be a relaxing semester taking one final course turned into an 8-week mad dash to fulfill the
requirements placed on me.
At the fourth week, another professor’s schedule changed so that he could assist with the deeper linguistic elements of the course that I had come to learn. We brought in specialists to speak on certain topics, and the course moved on.
As it turned out, Marlin didn’t come back before the end of the course. Praise God that as of his last communication, his son is “on an upward trajectory towards good health” now.