“I’ve often said that even the worst day of teaching is better than the best day at almost any other job. There just aren’t very many more rewarding things you can do with your life than spending every day encouraging the process of learning and having a hand in helping those light bulbs go on. That’s especially true when the subject is constitutional law and those light bulbs are illuminating new insights into the nation’s history, the workings of democracy and the hard questions that divide both the country and the court.
Law school was now a lot of years ago for me, but I still very much see myself in the faces looking back at me in my first-year Constitutional Law course. I was so eager, so nervous, so anxious to understand it all, and so very much in need of a workable structure for thinking about it. When I start a new semester, I remind myself that the first case I read in law school took me almost three hours to get through, because I had to stop and look up almost every word and phrase. It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of it, but the intellectual growth that you experience in a such a short time in law school is just so remarkable—and I try to remind my students to celebrate this, even when they’re mired in the parts that don’t feel worthy of celebration.
The greatest teachers I had throughout my life all had in common that they taught me to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, and that’s what I’m trying to give to my students. When things get tough, I say, ‘Just stick with me. I promise we will get you there.’ And we do. Together.”
—RonNell Andersen Jones is a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. She’ll moderate the U’s 35th Annual Jefferson B. Fordham Debate about freedom of speech on college campuses on Nov. 15 at the law school