Saturday, November 11, 2006

You're too professor-y for me

Take yourself out of your every day self, of your every day thoughts, and just for a moment, plunge back into those innocent yet somewhat dreadful elementary school days.

Remember those days of teacher and principal authority. Your little self would whisper something to your classmate during class. Oh, but then lo and behold, it wasn't only your friend who had heard you! Your entire face would go white and your stomach would feel like someone poured cement in it when your teacher approached you with that look in her eye. She had heard you! It didn't matter whether she was 28 or 82, they were all equally frightening to me. It wasn't until at least grade 4 that I realized that teachers are also people. I never really thought about them much, but I figured that all they did was teach, and that was their purpose in life. Going to a school in another town meant that I only ever saw teachers at school; I just figured that they had no personal life.

During recess, lunch break, they could shut the majority of kids up. The kids who didn't shut up were punished and were thereafter known as the "bad kids". I remember the year above me during elementary school had a lot of "bad kids". They were a bit of an exception, though, because one of the boys in that class had set a church on fire at the young age of eight. It was clear that he did not know what he was doing, but he did it just the same. Even the "bad kids" didn't go that far; the burning-down kid was in a category all of his own, unfortunately.
Anyway, I digress.

Once you got to high school, authority had taken a large step down, but it was still there. You called your teachers by their last name (with Mister or Miss in front of it), they would warn you not to curse, they would give you detentions if you were late or had misbehaved, etc. In school, there is a thick line between teachers and students. Of course, it needs to be there, especially if one party needs to assume the position of authority. In high school, you can become more friendly with teachers, but they are still your elders, the ones you should respect, so it is highly unlikely that you will go out for coffee with them.

In University, it seems that line between professor and student becomes somewhat blurred. Of course, you are still expected to behave yourself and not act up during class (something you should have learned in grade 3); besides, you are paying loads of money to sit in a class, so you might as well respect the professor and listen to what he or she has to say. If you don't want to, you can simply decide not to attend.

At Bishop's, though, it seems that the line between professor and student is very, very blurred. Professors have been known to drink and even on rare occasions, smoke up with students. English professors get drunk with their students, Philosophy professors hang out in cafes with their students, and Music professors have been known to play and jam with the students. In many situations outside the classroom, professors and students are on common ground. Of course, you probably will not talk to a professor like you would talk to a close friend of yours, but hey, it seems as though some professors and students are actually friends here.

This is a phenomenon that I find hard to believe. I mean, it makes sense that professors and students are on a more equal footing; in many cases, they are both mature people (most students who befriend professors are usually different or more intelligent than the average) and have similar interests. What I don't understand is when students and professors hang out together. For example, I have seen one of my previous Liberal Arts professors hang out at the cafe with a few students of his. In fact, just last week, I was part of this little, elitist, smart group. I find it a bit odd to be sitting around with a professor discussing life and philosophy outside of the University grounds. What constantly comes to mind is the question as to why on earth are these professors choosing to hang out with twenty-somethings when they could be hanging out with their own friends and family? Isn't work just work? Why are they choosing to be around this young crowd? We must sound so naïve and inexperienced to them. I mean, when students are discussing philosophy with a professor, aren't they just bringing up questions and speculations that the professor has heard many times before? Also, when our choir director comes to student music events, how on earth can he sit there, drinking a beer and sharing a laugh with a group of kids? It all seems so strange to me. We can't be that interesting.

Once I voiced my opinion to Andrea, she reminded me that yes, we are young, but we're not that stupid. Besides, most students who hang around with professors hang around them for a reason -- they obviously have something in common and share similar interests. It's true, but I am still not sure. Perhaps I am not giving some students the credit they deserve, and perhaps I am still a little prejudice when a professor and a student become buddy-buddy, but this is mainly due to the fact that I am also frequently exposed to the completely idiotic side of students.

It's difficult to give students much credit when they swear at passing police cars, when they smash bottles on the road (indirectly puncturing car and bicycle tires), and when they throw up everywhere on the road and sidewalk. Of course, just like in "real life", there is always a mix of moronic and interesting people. It's just too bad that it's always the idiots who stand out the most.

1 comment:

The Combat Philosopher said...

It is ok for professors to hang out with students, but there are rules of engagement. A certain professional distance has to be kept. However, you are correct that students are often smart and share interests with professors. This is part of the reason. Also, the kinds of students who behave like fools are not the kind who get to spend time with their faculty.

Sometimes, it is nice to kick back with the students one knows. This is because a less formal setting is sometimes useful. However, it does not mean that we do not spend time with our other friends also.

Finally, it is important to understand that the relationship between professors and students is in many ways parental. Most people like to spend time with their kids. So, the situation can be similar with professors and students. That being said, there are some professors who cross the line and fill their lives with hanging with their students. These people are usually a bit sad.

The CP