Okay, I joked a little about this before, but the truth is theres something inherently odd about what Im about to do. Not only am I going to be fifteen years older than many of my classmates, but Im a pretty blatantly bald dude. (By which I actually mean bald and blatantly pretty.) To be fair, part of what makes me a little queasy here is the fact that my wifes school, which is now also my school, is a small liberal-arts college. Its the kind of place where the students are not only all the same age, but a disturbingly high percentage of them wear the same brand and make of flip-flop. Undoubtedly big state schools are more mixed and of course community colleges have more people like me than like them. But Im here, not there, so whats an old dude to do?
For one thing, Ive started comparing myself to the long-time car mechanic who decides after a couple decades of greasemonkeying that hed really like to learn how to build cars. My hope is that his fellow engineering students would view him as a resource for tons of invaluable practical life-lessons which bring their academic studies some much needed grounding. This all sounds fantastic as a metaphor for my new life, but in that scenario where is the mechanics wife, the college professor? It seems I should prepare myself to have a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances in this go-round of college schooling. Not just because I actually have a lot of friends already, but because some of those friends are the professors of my new friends the students. Awkward.
As far as I can tell this is good career training. These 18 year-old freshmen (I know!) are barely older than the Seniors I purportedly want to teach in a few short years. And the guideline Ive recently heard for interacting well with your students is be familiar, but not friendly. As anyone who knows me is aware, this will be one of the largest challenges I face in making this career transition. Instinctively, I want to be everyones friend, but Id be doing myself and my students a disservice if I tried to establish our relationship along those lines. So as much as it sounds fun to hang out with tons of young energetic people and just kick-back and relax, Im going to practice keeping just enough distance.
That doesnt mean Im going to be a standoff-ish jerk, though. I have to have study sessions with someone. Sheesh, dude.