Image: Carpet at Atlanta airport. I've never visited Atlanta, but I've been laid over there on more than one occasion.
I have come to identify a particular type of male student, whom I call the Little Brothers. Does anyone else have Little Brothers? I don't really see any of my female students as Little Sisters, but perhaps that's because I have a little brother and not a sister, and the Little Brothers certainly remind me of my brother, who will always be little to me.
I love Little Brothers. I really do.
Here's what a Little Brother is, for me:
- He is plainly young. Not the fresh-faced, can-you-possibly-be-older-than-sixteen? kind of young that occasionally passes through my composition door, but young in a gawky adolescent way.
- He is awkward. Smooth-talkers and the super-confident are never Little Brothers. I also don't think that I've ever had a serious athlete as a Little Brother; those guys are a little too comfortable in their bodies to fit. Sometimes they also have bad skin. They might dress a little strangely, and I imagine that their rooms smell a bit like socks.
- He has certain distinct physical characteristics: a bony face, usually with pronounced cheekbones, and hair that's either distinctly long or just in need of a trim. This is definitely a legacy of my own little brother, who still has a very pronounced bone structure (and really long hair).
- He is not the best student in the class, but he tries. The examples I'm thinking of also come (or came) to my office hours more than average.
- We don't actually have a particularly strong rapport, but it seems clear (sometimes just by the more frequent office-hour visits) that he trusts me and perhaps likes me, in a totally non-creepy, perfectly appropriate sort of way.
But that's no reason to diminish my compassion for the Little Brothers, especially because there are other types of student--mostly first-years, who are so much more on the surface and young than upperclassmen--who tug at my heartstrings for different reasons. I think that perhaps I shall attempt to articulate a highly subjective typology.
(And yes, I'm aware that this makes me sound like a Universal Mother sort of professor. I'm not that, I don't think--but I do inhabit a rather nurturing role with my students, and sometimes I feel like I shouldn't because I'm a good feminist and that's playing to stereotype. But fuck it--I'm comfortable encouraging and nurturing and getting along with my students, and it makes my days so much better than being all exacting and harsh, especially given how much time I spend with students. Plus, the latter is very much not the culture at Field, for men or women.)
What about you? Do you perceive your students within your own set of arbitrarily defined categories that make you love them even without knowing much about them? (And let's focus on the positive, here--no fair trouncing whole groups, which is also a lot less interesting, I think.)