what I wasn’t expecting…

student and teacherMy first year of college is wrapping up for the year, and I am sitting back this weekend reflecting instead of studying for Monday and Tuesday’s finals.  When I chose what University to attend, one of my requirements was that it be a small campus.  I grew up on a farm, outside one of those idyllic American small towns, and I treasured that.  The thought of walking around a campus and never seeing the same face twice was appalling to me!  How can a person create relationships like that? I love my small campus, but I’ve come up with a problem that I never expected: getting too personal. 

Where is the line between student and professor relationships supposed to be drawn?  That is what I have been pondering.  Because, I must confess, as I pack up my books to move out for three months. . . I have realized that I am really going to miss several of my professors! 

Being a freshman is a weird feeling.  I spent 18 years with two parents.  They loved and nurtured me, giving me all the support I needed to become an adult.  Although at times that relationship was strained, as all teenage-parent relationships can be, I became very dependent on those two individuals.  Then, suddenly, college hit.  I moved away and was cut off from them.  Not permanently.  I still have contact with them through telephone and e-mail plus I go home often.  But there really was a type of severring that affected me much harder than I expect it to.  Because I am independent by nature, I thought becoming literally independent would be simple.  Not so. 

But then, when classes began, I found a type of surrogate parent in each of my teachers.  At such a small campus, my professors were able to learn my name and recognize my face in places outside of class and even greeted me off-campus.  I wasn’t just “student-X”; I became a person.

These new “parents” were able to teach me things that my actual parents could not.  For years, I have wanted to take English classes and now that my dreams are being fulfilled. . . how do I not idolize those who are enabling those dreams to come true?

I’ve come to realize that, also similar to the parental relationship, the professor-student one is a love-hate relationship.  There have been days when I have cursed them, as I listened to them use their platform to shatter my values, or as I spent hours trying to fulfill their outrageous demands for assignments that were unclear.  But then there are days when I sit in my desk laughing hysterically at something they said/did or when I admit I’m struggling and get a helpful one-on-one conference.

My entire world, for the past year, has revolved around my professors.  As a student, my main focus in life is passing their classes.  These individuals, with their strict grade books, hold power over my entire future.  At times it seems like I’m an actor doing whatever dance they demand of me and when I slip up, I’m on my knees begging them for a second chance.  Thankfully, none of my professors have taken advantage of that situation.  They’ve instructed, aided and supported me.  I appreciate that and admire them for it.

I found out yesterday that the choir director at my campus is leaving.  I am not in choir, so I don’t know him well, but I do know that he is one of the “favorite” teachers at my campus.  His choir students put on a farewell karaoke show for him.  There were gifts, laughter, tears . . . they were disappointed to see him go!  That says a lot about how great of a teacher he is.  Personally, I don’t feel that that is a breach of professionalism.  I think that students having affection for their teacher reflects good things in the teacher.

 This blog had an interesting article on student-professor relationships.  One thing the article said was this: “Love is a flame, and the good teacher raises in students a burning desire for his or her approval and attention, his or her voice and presence…”  In essence, there is a love between the student and professor, it just isn’t a sexual affair like Hollywood portrays.

On Tuesday I am done with school.  I am going back home to two parents, whom I love significantly more than any professor, but they will not challenge me and help mold my mind.  It will be a great summer and I will enjoy giving my brain a break.  But whenever I write, I will examine my words and find glimpses of the people who helped me improve.

Thank you to all professors who dedicate their lives to helping younger generations channel wisdom and creativity.



3 Responses

  1. Hey, nice blog, I definitely feel very similarly. Hamrick is going on sabbatical next semester, but he told me that if I ever wanted to sit down and talk about anything, to just give him a call. It is interesting, but I appreciate his willingness to help me succeed and his interest in my academic career. I guess what I’m saying is I can relate to this blog!

  2. I remember my first year of college, it was a while ago, but I still remember it. I loved learning, I finally wasn’t smarter than my teacher. I was taking Theology. While growing up I usually knew more Bible than my Sunday School teachers and Youth leaders. That’s not a boast, it’s a truth. I read more and studied more than they did. It made me arogant and looking back the best thing that happened was going somewhere I could be knocked down a peg or to. One professor still sticks out, my Professor of Old Testement, Dr. Lee. He could read the Bible in Hebrew fluently. He knew more than I could ever imagine. The second prof that sticks out was Dr. Vaughn. He was the New Testement prof. He was the most boring teacher I had ever had. He would pass out the notes for the entire semester and then read those same notes in class verbatim. But he taught me humility. If anyone would ask a question in class no matter how simple, he would write it down and explain it the next class after he had studied it at length so as not to give a wrong answer. Something else he did that was amazing was that he prayed for each member of his many classes by name every day as well as there spouses and children. I remember a friend of mine telling me Dr. Vaughn had met him and his wife and two kids once and six months later walked up to him and asked how his wife and kids were doing by name. But the one that got me was Dr. Lee, while in college I was having financial problems and somehow he found out (to this day I don’t know how) and came up to me out of the blue and hired me to mow his yard. He paid well and his wife made excellent cookies.
    One other thing, you said your mind would get a break while with your parents. I challenge you to not let that happen. You have been away from home for a while and now you should be able to see your parents anew. Look at the things they don’t teach you verbally. Watch what they do, how hard they work. Try to see the things they modeled not the things they taught. I never noticed how hard my Dad worked until after I had been away for a while. I never noticed the fierce love my Mom had until I came home after that first year away. Try to find the different ways each one has shaped you that you didn’t even realize they were teaching you. It helped me a lot. Parents seem to get smarter the older we get. I have a feeling they have a lot more to teach if we just let them, that goes for me as well.

  3. Tim, that is awesome of him!

    Shawn, thanks for the challenge. I’m excited to be able to spend more time with my parents and will attempt to examine the different ways they are shaping me!


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