A professor at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville recently went viral for the most beautiful reason.
It’s one of the calls that most busy parents dread to receive – a call from their babysitter calling in sick. While there are people who are lucky enough to have friends and nearby family members who could watch their baby while they are gone, some just don’t have that luxury. Unfortunately, one student at Georgia Gwinnett College belongs to the latter group.
The night before class, a student and a mother called Ramata Sissoko Cissé, an assistant professor of biology, to inform her that her babysitter was sick. Because of that, she would have no choice but to bring her baby to the anatomy and physiology class the next day.
Cissé, a mother of three, had no objections at all. She told her that she could bring her son to her class.
“For her to trust me made me feel like I had to help,” Cissé said. “It’s like a moral responsibility.”
During the class, however, the baby was becoming a bit fussy. He kept moving, which made it hard for his mother to take down notes on the three-hour lecture.
Cissé noticed this and did what she thought was right.
“Hand me the baby,” she told the student.
However, holding a baby while doing a lecture also posed a problem for the professor. Cissé couldn’t carry him while writing on the white board, so she decided to get creative. She spotted a white lab coat and used that to create a makeshift baby carrier. She then tied the baby boy to her back.
To her relief, the baby quickly fell asleep and stayed quiet for the rest of the class. Cissé used this opportunity to incorporate the baby into her lecture, discussing concepts related to the nervous system, brain function, and metabolism.
A student of hers asked why the baby was able to sleep so peacefully, and she explained that it was because he was cozy and warm. Their combined body temperatures produced heat that made it easier for the baby to relax.
When the baby started to feel hungry and his bottle was cold, she explained to the class that warming up the milk would help the baby’s metabolism.
After the class, Cissé said the student sent her an e-mail thanking her for what she did.
“You’re welcome, I’ll always be there for you,” she wrote back. And the student responded, “I know.”
Those two simple words meant a lot to Cissé as an educator.
Many of her students become nurses, doctors, or take on other health professions. Cissé said that teaching them science is just part of her objective of preparing them for the real world which they will encounter after school.
“Love and compassion are part of the philosophy of my classroom,” she said.
She hopes that by modeling them in teachable moments – such as when she volunteered to hold a student’s baby during class – that her students would understand that being a good health care provider couldn’t be achieved by just reading textbooks. There has to be real-life application.
“I’m hoping they can spread love, take it to other people who need it,” she said.
The students at Georgia Gwinnett College are surely lucky to have a professor like Cissé who not only teaches her students knowledge gleaned from a textbook, but also teaches them about what is truly important in life – that is, to be a compassionate human being, first and foremost.
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