When I decided I wanted to be a professor, I imagined that I would teach at some idealized college or university, where I would live near campus in a big house or a fabulously funky apartment and have parties for my students, as in Charles and Squadro’s comments on Notorious, Ph.D.’s post. I’d have on-going relationships with former students, who would keep in touch, or stay in town.
That’s so not how life worked out, of course. Partly because of my two-body situation, partly because I crave big cities, I live far from campus. Most of my students are perfectly nice people, but every now and then a few turn up whom I not only wouldn’t want in my house, I wouldn’t want them to know my address.
But then there are the sisters with whom I had dinner last night. I met the older one ten years ago, and her sister a couple of years later. They’ve been to my house; I’ve hired them as research assistants; one of them, along with her roommate, cooked for me and another colleague once a week for a year or so; one of them is my concert buddy. I hadn’t seen either of them for awhile, and then last night I attended a performance by one, arranged by the other, at the local public library, and then we went out to dinner to catch up.
Introvert that I am, I am sure I could not sustain a SLAC-level of involvement with students, but with these two, I do see what people are talking about when they go on about the delights of following their students’ progress through four years of college. Ten years . . . these women are becoming pillars of their community. I don’t want to give specifics, but they do stuff, organize things, expand their own and other people’s knowledge and experience in enlivening ways. I want to have them come and talk to all my classes: if you like being an English major, these are the things you can do with your love of reading, of history, of books. Whether or not your job is closely involved with books, you can start and attend book groups, suggest a theme for the one you’re already in, do research in local history, perform as an actor or re-enactor, help out your local library, tutor, make a difference in so many ways.
I don’t think I had much to do with making these two what they are. Good students teach themselves, no matter what their instructors are like. But it is so very nice to know them.