I'm just back--well, I came back last night, technically--from the annual undergraduate conference to which we always take 12-20 of our majors. This year we had about 16, I think, although a few drove up on their own just for Saturday (we drove the majority up in a couple of big vans Friday night; it's only two hours away). Three of them were reading papers that they'd written for my seminar in the Fall; of these, two are currently student teaching, and it was really nice to catch up with them, since they're not on campus this semester.
This is my third trip to the conference, and it's an exhausting affair, with an early Saturday morning, a lot of stressful driving, and meals taken in dining halls and fast food restaurants. I only went to the panels where our students were presenting--for really, I do not need to hear any other papers--so I was able to spend a good chunk of Saturday afternoon reading a novel that I'll be teaching soon, and the plenary speaker (a creative non-fiction author) was excellent, but it's still an event that inevitably wears me out. There's a lot of talking. That's a big part of it. Because many of our students--and I love them for this--like talking to us. They're comfortable. They'll sit around and chat.
It is a thing that I love about Field, the way that students and faculty get along. I know my students. Even in the survey, I know many of them pretty well by now (all 22 of them or whatever it is). Yesterday I had lunch with a very quiet first-year who's in that class and now I know about her reading interests, her cat, and how she feels about cities. I had a long talk on the drive back with a junior transfer that made me much more sympathetic to her grad school aspirations and the difficulties that she'll have to overcome to get there. And I found myself, in many of these conversations, forgetting that they're the students and I'm the professor and thinking of them just as people--as friends, almost.
This is what I love about teaching here: that, while I am teaching and grading and guiding and so forth, I also get to care about and even--in a non-creepy way--love my students, love their individual humanity and their brand new thoughts and their difficulties and enthusiasms. It doesn't hurt that the culture here is overwhelmingly nice; my students are nice people, for the most part, too.
It's a good thing, this conference. It shows our students a broader world of academic discourse, it lets us get to know them better, and it gives them some nice English-major bonding time. But it does mean spending essentially an extra 24 hours on the clock. So today, I think that I will chiefly read the novel for seminar, do some laundry, and Cuddle Kitties. And go to the gym. And we have fun dinner plans.
But the R&R, and the articles I want to read, and everything else, might just have to wait for the upcoming very busy week to get done. Perhaps I can allow myself that.