The world set free

Did you read phd me’s account of attending graduation?  Take away the nice robes, and that was my experience watching our students at NLNRU’s graduation this year. (Seriously, the rented academicals were the worst I’ve ever had–cleaning-solvent spots on the sleeves, threads dangling from every possible location.)  NLNRU sure puts on a nice show–I went to the main ceremony, the school ceremony, and our departmental reception.  This was the first year I’ve attended, but also the first year I knew virtually everyone graduating, which is a kind of perk of teaching the introduction-to-the-graduate-program class.   It was exhausting just being on campus with that many people swarming around, but it was also kind of wonderful. 

I sat in the auditorium where the faculty assembles, seeing no one I knew, but I ended up waiting in the procession with a really cool woman from the medical school with whom I turned out to have a ridiculous number of things in common.  Neither of us had anything to write with, but I had no trouble memorizing the email address because the userID part of it is exactly the same as that of the Snork Maiden’s math teacher.

And when we sat down at the main ceremony, I was directly in front of someone who was a few years ahead of me in graduate school.  I knew she was at NLNRU (she teaches in the comp/rhet program), but we hadn’t managed to cross paths before, and we chatted a little bit and caught up.

The school ceremony was pretty awesome, and I was able to schmooze with our students beforehand and sit onstage with two members of our department.

And the department reception was so nice.  We’d had a little “do” the evening before, with a reading by graduating students, and a lot of them came to that instead of to the reception right after the ceremony–I think some of the out-of-town families wanted to go out to lunch and sightsee–but that meant there was time to talk and enjoy the relatively quiet and cool reception room. 

In the middle of all this, though, my chair and I were being anxious and aggravated because of some administrative issues which we have to address next week.  And I was inwardly toggling  back and forth between serious graduation-induced NLNRU love and administrative-issue-induced NLNRU aggravation.   From minute to minute, my feelings were swinging from “I love NLNRU!  I want the Snork Maiden to go here” (have I mentioned the excellent tuition benefits for which I’m eligible, even as a NTT faculty member?) and “The heck with this place, it’s all smoke and mirrors, they don’t CARE about our students.”  It was disorienting.

After that, I made my way back home and went to an SA baseball game.  This was the last game of the regular season, so the team was honoring the graduating seniors and there was food and a good turnout.  I chatted with students, parents, and colleagues–Dr. Tea was there, and both Romola and Dorothea, and the headmaster, and Akela, and the band director and the Snork Maiden’s English teacher.  I felt much less complicated about this–I enjoyed all of this, and felt sentimental about the graduating seniors, most of whom I taught my first half-year at SA–but it was also a bit weird in a social way, because Dorothea and Romola are so much younger and have gotten so tight with each other (and we all teach ninth grade together, remember), so that even though I have a good working relationship with them, it’s really different from the relationship they have with each other; and because–

well, how to put this?  I guess just the sense that I get sometimes that most of the people I teach with, when they leave school, are just regular people?  I know that sounds silly.  But there’s always a distinct “we’re away from work!  Having a Coke at the baseball game!  Making jokes about drinking and carousing!” kind of vibe.  I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like I’m a writer/teacher/literature person all the time, and when they step away from work, they’re just Mary or Joe or whomever.  I feel, in short, like kind of a nerd.  You would think that all teachers were nerds in school, but this seems not to be the case.  And I notice I tend to gravitate most to the ones who probably were, like Dr. Tea and Akela. 

I don’t feel this way with my NLNRU colleagues, probably because they are all writers.  I don’t love them all, but I feel like they get me, and I them, in a way that my SA colleagues and I don’t always.  At SA, I feel like on the one hand I’m kind of über-nerdy, because I am interested in my subject in ways I don’t have to be in order to teach it to high-schoolers; on the other hand, I’m kind of outré, because I am still not fully socialized as a high-school teacher and may do or say things that seem a little weird in that context.  I think I am well liked, in part because I am pleasant to everyone, and try to be constructive in my encounters, and am a good colleague.  And I do genuinely like and respect nearly everyone I work with.  But there’s still something a bit odd there…

This is not at all where I meant this post to go!  I meant to tell you about my big sappy graduation-day moment, leaving the SA game, when I thought of that bumpersticker: “I Touch the Future. I Teach”–which is apparently something that Christa McAuliffe said–and I thought: Oh my God, that’s so true.  So TRUE!  


One response to this post.

  1. I feel like I’m a writer/teacher/literature person all the time, and when they step away from work, they’re just Mary or Joe or whomever. I feel, in short, like kind of a nerd.

    Yes, exactly! My FGS colleagues seem to split between the majority who are “just Mary or Joe or whoever” and those few who are in academic/professional mode most of the time. I’m definitely in the latter crowd, and I go back and forth between loving the fact that the former group is so big and healthy and feeling anxious or left out that I’m not like that. But the good news is that I think people like me for my big ol’ nerdy self; glad that you’re in the same circumstance at SA.


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