Time passages

I had a sore throat like this one once when I was teaching at NLNRU.  The classes were three-hour evening seminars and at the break I gave one of the students two dollars to buy me a cup of herbal tea from the coffee shop.  I have always been lukewarm, so to speak, about herbal tea.  It smells nice but the good-smelling ones never taste like much.  I’m not like Stubb and his performer colleagues, who in the name of throat care swallow many noxious brews (he swears by drops of liquid cayenne in glasses of water, which I actually don’t mind so much, and Throat Coat, which I do).

Image: Betty Mills.

Image: Betty Mills.

She came back with a grande cup of Tazo Wild Sweet Orange, which was the best herbal tea I’d ever tasted up to then.  I’ve since tried their Passion flavor, which is also rather nice, but that particular evening, Wild Sweet Orange was just the ticket for my sore throat.

Today I’m drinking it out of the big black mug I got the one year my teaching schedule allowed me to attend 2YC’s annual faculty/staff holiday party.  2YC is the two-year art and design college where I worked as an adjunct for a few years.  I had some good colleagues and students, and I became a pretty efficient teacher of freshman comp.  It is a for-profit college, which was useful to view up close, if problematic in some ways, and the party was probably more like a company party than the typical college faculty/staff party.  Everyone got a party favor (the big black mug with the college logo), and there was also a drawing for other prizes–I went home with a pair of perfectly serviceable candlesticks.

I’m thinking about my past work history this evening: partly because of the tea, partly because of the mug, partly because one Thanksgiving break makes me think of other Thanksgiving breaks, and this is probably the calmest, least work-oriented one I’ve had since I started this blog.  I uploaded recs to five different schools for one of my former NLNRU students, and started work on what I think should be the last rec of this year, for a student who left the NLNRU program but has kept in touch.  I’ll probably reread The Metamorphosis, which is the last text of the semester in my senior classes, but otherwise I don’t plan to do any school-related work until Monday.

I also just visited the website of another of my past employers–a university that’s considered a highly desirable/competitive one and where several of our students, including Ed, have put in early applications.  I was curious about when the applicants will find out, and the answer is mid-December.

On Tuesday, Ed handed me a thank-you note for writing his college rec.  In it, in addition to expressing his thanks for last year’s class and for writing the letter, he said that of all his teachers at SA (and remember, he arrived last year as a junior), I probably know him best.  This is kind of hilarious to me because although I do like him enormously, I barely feel I know him at all–he’s so inward and reserved.  As I said in an email to PymFan, though, I have to remember that when I was in high school I often thought teachers knew things about me that they didn’t, and I probably thought they didn’t know some things they did.

Last year I mentioned that I thought I was getting better at connecting with students.  That did in fact turn out to be a theme of the year.  One of the things that happened is that the senior who came out to me in September, whom I’d taught in junior year, pretty much appointed me his special friend and would come to find me during our shared free periods to talk about all his various issues around senior year, friendships, coming out, academics, etc.  This student–let’s call him Ben–likes to talk A LOT, is very bright, and tends to analyze everything to death.  Because Romola was usually working in our room, and because space is at such a premium, I would take Ben out for walks around campus.  Occasionally I would deliver him to someone he clearly really needed to talk with–the school counselor or his college counselor–but a lot of the time he just needed to vent and process, and I was happy to be his sounding board.  Ben ended up having a pretty good senior year, although his grades (which had always been very high) did some ricocheting around, and he might not have put quite the effort into his college applications that he might have.  Still, he got into some great schools, and currently seems to be enjoying his freshman year.  He also finished up the year by getting elected graduation speaker by his peers, which was a nice show of support.

So I think one of the things that resulted from this was that other students saw me walking around campus talking with Ben and this kind of identified me as a person to whom one might take one’s problems.  Meanwhile, too, SA’s gay-straight alliance has been having a good few years in terms of student interest and faculty support, and I think that my being involved with that has also identified me to some students as someone approachable.

Ed also said in the letter that he missed talking with me, but he knows I am very busy, and that makes him even more appreciative that I wrote the college rec, etc., etc.  I think this means that he would like to come and talk with me–heck, I’m pretty sure it does, because again, he’s a very inward and reserved 17- or 18-year-old boy, so even to say that he misses talking with me probably felt like putting himself out there.  So after a little consideration, I wrote him an email thanking him for the letter and observing that it put me in a thankful frame of mind for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I also told him that I missed talking with him, too, and that now that I am teaching so many seniors, I am especially interested in hearing about the senior year from people who are going through it.  I think this will give him the excuse he needs to drop in if he wants to–the pretext will be that he can help enhance my understanding of senior year, not that he wants to get something off his chest.

Many students need no pretext whatsoever; many girls, especially, will just announce that they are having an emotional emergency of some kind, and some boys will too–e.g. Ben.  However, I thought it was important to prop the door open for Ed.  We’ll see what happens.



5 responses to this post.

  1. Getting closer to students and building those relationships is so important, but one of the most complicated, fraught tasks we have, I think.


    • Posted by meansomething on December 2, 2013 at 4:33 am

      Yes, exactly! And it feels weird to admit how uncertain I often am about the right thing to do or say. Aren’t grownups supposed to just know these things? (Ha.)


      • I KNOW. Interacting with students is when I often feel the most socially awkward these days, especially because I really want to get it “right”!

  2. […] a batch of 20 papers.  And I’m meeting Dr. Tea and two students for coffee–Ben and another student, whom I’ll call Theresa.  She graduated the year ahead of Ben, and like […]


  3. […]  I have gotten some stuff together for the taxes.  The Snork Maiden and I had lunch with Ben, who is home for spring break, and in a good mood, and really settled into college and enjoying it. […]


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