Thursday, October 8, 2015

Delores in DC Sends This Along As Our Big Thirsty of the Week.

I'm only five years into my teaching career (yes, T&P is all I think about), but this editorial in our paper caught my eye.

I was prepared to be all the cynical, but as the story continues, I found myself wondering a great deal about the writer's notion of the "ideal relationship" between students and faculty.

So, here's the flava:

This fall, I started playing weekly tennis games with one of my professors. I had taken a course with him in the spring, we had become friendly and both enjoyed tennis, though we both found discovering people to play with difficult.
Nothing about this felt odd until I started telling people about it. From my roommates, friends and classmates, I almost invariably received a reaction of “Why?” or else a winking smile, pat on the back and some variation of “Congratulations, that’s so smart of you, way to get ahead!”

Q: What is the "ideal relationship" between students and professors? Did you ever have it? Do you do things now to create it for your own students?

PS: Can I confess a crush on OPH?


  1. The ideal relationship is at arm's length. I don't even have a Facebook page, because I don't want to be "friends" with them. If one ever whines that I don't seem to "like" them much, I tell them that above anything else, it's essential to be fair. Being too friendly with students is as bad as taking the attitude of "I don't like that student": it wouldn't be fair, since an important part of my job is to assign grades, which I do on deliverables alone.

    P.S. Proffie G can be Strelnikov, since I'm Yaro, remember?

    1. I agree with you. It's hard to be objective and impartial with one's friends.

      However, at the place where I used to teach, I heard of cases where certain colleagues engaged in what might politely be called extra-curricular activities. (Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Wink-wink, nudge-nudge!)

      In the department where I did my Ph. D., one supervisor's dealings with his favourite grad student seemed quite suspicious, though any evidence about it was circumstantial.

    2. one of my grad school buddies reported that many of the profs in her department (at a school in Oxford, Ohio, ahem) slept with their female students. Once she ran into one of her professors in her own apartment in the middle of the night because the prof was f-ing her roommate regularly. (Think Donald Sutherland in "Animal House") That's why she transferred schools. (Yes Hiram, i am serious).

    3. Seemingly everyone knows a situation in which a student goes to work under a professor. Why is this shit tolerated?

  2. Big Thirsty of the week? I call foul on our fearless leader. The Big Thirsty IS just once a week already. There's only one question big enough for Thursday, so your lazy title has wasted some precious time I could have used staring into the abyss.

    You're welcome, Fab.

    Your friend in Ohio,

  3. Student and Professor--until well after graduation.

  4. I think it's possible to befriend a mature student, one approximately your own age, after they graduate and are no longer in your class. Hierarchy will impede a friendship with any student who hasn't graduated, and any student significantly younger than you whether or not they graduated. I became a friend of my undergraduate mentor, but only about 10 or 15 years after I had graduated, and it was still a very formal friendship.

  5. I have politely and briefly attended graduation parties when invited, but otherwise keep my distance. I have become friends with 3 students, well after they graduated.

  6. I am a Facebook friend with ONE former student. She's a bit older than the other students, married, and became a teacher in a local school.

    OTOH, my old adviser had to come out and tell me "call me (my first name) not Doctor!" after I had graduated and was in my 40s. Old habits.....

  7. At a long distance! It is true that I am facebook friends with a former student; she is in her 60's and I am in my middle 50's. But that came a decade after she took a course from me.

  8. At the beginning of my career when I was close to some of my students in age, I became friends with a few of my students after they had graduated. One of them shared an interest in theater, and we saw a couple of shows together. And the other shared an interest in rock climbing, and we went to the climbing gym together a few times. But now that I'm older, I find myself wanting less and less to befriend any of them after they graduate.

    I don't think a friendship is much of a problem if the age gap is low and it happens after the student graduates.

  9. I, too, will go with relatively formal/distant/firm boundaries. Of course, that suits my personality; as an introvert with few (but mostly long-term) friends, I don't tend to make the sort of connection that would lead to a friendship with someone I see twice a week for 14 weeks for an hour or so, in a group of 20-40 other people (in fact, I don't feel I know anyone well until I've spent substantial one-on-one, or very small group, time with them, and the development of a real friendship definitely requires substantial one-on-one time, in addition to any interaction we may have in other contexts). That said, I do connect on a somewhat different level with many students closer to my age (though, as I learned on evals last year, I'm also capable of ticking off middle-aged students by not keeping "the kids" under better control -- sorry, but you gotta give them some room to make mistakes/find their own way. That student was the exception, I think, and generally a bit tightly-wound.) And I do like, and even admire, many of my students. I just don't consider them friends, potential or actual.

  10. Both see each other as human. Human professor and human student. So, not much to add that hasn't already been said.

    Delores, thank you.