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This class has been occupying my mind

froggies315's picture

I left last Thursday class a little shaken.  Our conversation and the Breaking Project reading made me think about things I didn’t really want to think about.

Some background:

I had a not so fun sophomore year.  In my classes, I was looking for a space to discuss/reflect on my reactions to the things that were happening to me outside of the classroom.  This was not cool with my professors.  I realized that I needed to go on Dean’s Leave.  So, I did.  This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I spent the year connecting to people and telling and listening to stories on my/our own terms, not the terms dictated by a college or a professor. I learned a lot about myself and the world last year.  Last year, I became acutely aware of the importance of a college degree.  If I wanted to have any kind of paying job with more responsibility than babysitting, I would need to come back to school.  So I came back, but first I promised myself that I would not turn to my classes for support in the way that I had tried to do as a sophomore.

My plan worked out great first semester.  School and social/emotional life were separate, just the way I planned.

Last Thursday, that separation became blurred and I got scared.  Reading personal stories about professors was hard (and frustrating because these were the types of stories that were not allowed in previous academic conversations).  Having to respond to those stories in class was even harder.  It felt like the boundaries and promises that I had created for myself so that I could come back to college were forcibly re-drawn.  It didn’t feel good.  Didn’t feel safe, even.  

I work best when there are clear expectations.  I work best when there are boundaries.  I work best when there are rules.  All of these things help me to feel safe.  

It might be OK that I don’t feel completely safe in this class, I haven’t decided yet.  I’m coming to the realization that a lot of this class is going to be about blurring boundaries, so it seems like I’ll have to get more comfortable with not feeling safe (sort of an oxymoron?).  How should I feel about this?  Will I grow in this class?  Do I want to grow in this class?  Is there more than one way to grow (intellectual, emotional, social etc) and can those types of growth happen in isolation?  Is not feeling safe the only thing that leads to growth?  


froggies315's picture

I get what you're saying, I

I get what you're saying, I think.  Part of what makes people we admire so much so admirable is that they have perservered in the face of challenge/hardship.  When I think back on the teachers who have had the most impact on my life, I think of the teachers that shared their lives with me.  The teachers that seemed human. My history teacher who gave me advice about how he handled the stress of applying to college, my calculus teacher who explained that math was hard for him too.  Although...those conversations felt much more consensual then our conversation/readings for last Thursday.  I felt empowered by those conversations, I felt confused by our conversation in class. I went to my high school teachers and asked for their advice.  They shared stories about themselves for the purpose of helping me gain perspective.  Also, those teachers knew me for four years before they shared those stories with me.  I don't know if i'm really making sense...

I agree with you that is best to strive to see the humanity in all the people rather than making them into objects of admiration or scorn. This is just much easier said than done especially in the context of college which, except for this class, has drawn pretty clear boundaries between public and private life.

Ayla's picture

Mine too

I was thinking mostly about the comment in class concerning the sharing of personal stories from professors in class.  I am probably one of the first people to say (jokingly), "professors have lives?"  Well, I mean, outside of school?  Ok, I know they have lives, but they are the people that we students look up to and it is easier to think of them as images rather than humans.  They have it together - for the most part.  Most of my professors are more organized than anyone I know, they have pretty much all of the answers (and if not the answer than some very profound educated opinion to my question), and I'm forever stunned that professors are never falling asleep in class (how do they do it???).  They are open to ideas, they are excited, they want to listen to you --- professors = superpeople.  So, in my mind at least, my professors do look like superheroes.  No they can't fly or shoot lasers from their eyes, but they are super in that I would feel so blessed to be half of the person that they are.  

So, being a superhero fanatic, I can only equate my professors with the characteristics of some of the best superheroes.  The fact is that all superheroes come from pain.  Batman watched his parents die.  Superman is the last of his kind - never to fit in with the world he fell in love with.  Spider man was indirectly responsible for his uncle's death.  They are all carrying a dark weight with them - and that dark weight is what makes them more likeable.  I think the same goes for people in general.  Sure, I admire someone who has it all together on the surface.  But my grandmother, who worked three jobs in high school and gave all her money to her father, who was the least favorite of the family because she was a female, who married an alcoholic and drug him out of his addiction...I emulate her.  Knowing that a person has gone through rough times (everyone has) brings your admiration of them to the next level.  I think that knowing some personal stories from our professors is important in breaking down that dictorial wall.  Let students peer through once in a while.