Friday, February 18, 2011

Friendliness

Apparently the Field College yearbook does these "superlative" awards for faculty and staff--who knew? They're mostly on things about sports team fan-hood and other stuff for which I wouldn't particularly want to be competitive, but they seem like a nice enough idea.

I know about this because I'm apparently a finalist for one of them--there's been a tie, so they're having a vote-off. I'm in the running for "Most likely to be a friend after graduation."

I surely do think that's sweet (though it must be said that my money is on the other contender.)

And you know, I don't think that my students' thinking of me as having friend potential undermines my authority. I am pretty much positive that my students respect me--and, if they don't, I don't know about it. My classes are difficult and my evaluations very good; many of my students work hard in my courses. I seldom get the sense that anyone is trying to pull one over on me; this is not to say that they never do, but I'm okay with letting the occasional con artist get away with something* if it means that, on the whole, there is trust between me and my students (as well as the peace of mind that comes with not looking for cons).

This is, by the way, a marked change from my first year or so here. I knew that a lot of my students liked me back then, but I knew that a lot didn't--and, more to the point, I felt highly embattled. I did have disrespectful students. They freaked me the hell out. And even when I didn't run into open hostility, I was highly alert to the possibility of disrespect. I think that a lot of this--and a great deal of my stress and unhappiness--came from being afraid of my students. That's a perfectly normal new-teacher feeling, I think, but it doesn't make for a sustainable career.

And now, you know, it's just a pleasure to walk around campus, especially because we're such a small school, and to have to pause every few seconds for a "Hi, Chelsea, how's it going?" or "Lou! Congratulations on the law school admission!" or "Hey, Veronica, you feeling better this week?"

It's nice. It's a community. And, in a weird way, it is precisely my position of relative power and authority (as a professor) that enables me to make all of these fond and dispassionate connections--to be friendly without judgment, as it were. I don't need to assess these people as peers; I merely need to be compassionate, and fair, and courteous, and somehow, that makes me love them.

*We're NOT talking plagiarism here--that's a different issue--and one that I do catch on occasion.

2 comments:

Anastasia said...

It sounds like you're inviting them to rise to your level, not that they think of you as one of them. Well done.

Ink said...

Congrats! That's a lovely honor.