Monday, July 26, 2004

Renaissance, pt. 1 (Most Well?)

In the past five years, I've taught at four different schools — a public research university, an ostensibly prestigious private university, a private four-year liberal arts college, and a religiously affiliated women's college. At the latter, I worked on a satellite campus dedicated to serving "non-traditional" students, almost all of whom had children and who worked full-time in addition to attending classes.

At all four institutions, I've encountered some outstanding students. But I've had the most respect for the women at the latter — women who work their butts off for a chance to snatch and savor a college experience once precluded by: (a) motherhood; (b) youthful apathy/feelings of inadequacy; (c) financial hardship; (d) having been a refugee in a country ravaged by war; or (e) all of the above. Without romanticizing them, it's fair to say that such "adult" students had a hunger I've seen less frequently in their "traditionally aged" counterparts. Keenly self-conscious about what they felt they didn't know, many of the non-trad students were also the most un-self-conscious about loving ideas. Many also were stunned to realize that, in contrast to the teenaged classmates, they had an edge when it came to efficient work habits and critical thinking.

At my current institution, one rarely sees a student older than 21. Which is why I was so happily surprised by the appearance of Antonia in my class last spring. Apart from the inevitable, strange moments when Antonia wanted to know how old I am (about 16 years her junior) and if I have any children (nope), and apart from a few individual conferences that suggested we could, under different circumstances, have become instant friends, Antonia and I had a properly professional student-teacher relationship all last semester. A month after grades were in, however, she invited me to do something socially, and I happily agreed. The upshot: yesterday, Antonia coaxed me and another of her friends to our state's Renaissance Faire. This meant spending a whopping thirteen hours together, many (a few too many) of them in an atmosphere thick with turkey legs and bawdy Ren Faire humor (hint: A sword is never just a sword).

Adam and I are about to leave town for a few days. When we return next weekend, I'll write more about

• MISCOMMUNICATION, or when a professor assumes her former student would prefer not to talk about school... and accidentally wounds that student as a result.
• HUMILIATION, or when that same professor finds she has not escaped her life's curse — namely, of forever drawing the attention of Ren Faire performers looking for "volunteers."
• A DISSERTATION, on the role and treatment of breasts at the Ren Faire — from the perspective of one of the underendowed.

p.s. Academic bloggers ruminate way too much about their own images. Upon coming to that conclusion the other evening, I congratulated myself for never stooping to writing about looks. And then I remembered this entry. And this, this, and this one. Who knew I was so shallow? (No, don't answer that.)


At 11:38 PM, Blogger bitchphd said...

LOL, yes, we are a self-conscious lot, aren't we?


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