hen I was an undergraduate, I used to like going to my professors’ offices and talking. I would always have a legitimate reason for going–grades, questions about the subject in class–but if the conversation veered toward non-academic topics, I was more than happy to shoot the breeze. Personally, it was interesting to talk to those older than me, and hear their perspective of life. I mean, experience should count for something, don’t you think?
This did not happen very often, unfortunately. My professors ran their life very professionally, and office hours were strictly maintained. It sometimes had the feel of a doctor’s office: The Professor is IN/OUT. Perhaps because of this, there was always a distinct barrier between us. Not that this is a bad thing. A distinct border makes life easier: I knew where I stood and consequently I knew what I could say, what I could get away with, and what I couldn’t.
But as a student, I always appreciated those professors who treated me with some respect. This doesn’t mean that I expected him to shake my hand or be my best buddy, but I did enjoy those professors who would talk to me honestly and openly, giving me a little time to talk about anything and everything. And it was a bonus when he or she would manifest a personal interest in me: Did you have a nice spring break? How are your other classes going? What are you doing this summer?
As this is what I enjoyed from my professors as a twenty-something, this is what I try to provide to my students. I am interested in their day. I ask how their weekend went. I laugh at myself, much to their amusement. Perhaps I go a bit overboard at times. I am willing to talk about virtually anything, and at length. Do my students enjoy this or appreciate this? Am I going to far? Perhaps blurring the line between respect and familiarity, hopefully in a good way, but maybe to detrimental effect (READ: taking someone for granted)? These are, of course, questions only they can answer. I can only teach as I see fit. I am human, too, and will react predictably–to a degree–to certain stimuli.
Anyway, back to grading for me. From illness (twice), to INS, to a heavy teaching load (Do any of you college students know a professor who teaches five courses in one semester?), and now my allergies are kicking in: This has been the semester from Hell…
I just hope to survive it.