July 20, 2012

Spoiled Teacher Life

"Miss Jena, do you want Starbucks?" My student asked me this morning when he showed up no less than 50 minutes before my class started. After my cursory hesitation and no-it's-ok hand gesture, he made the please-say-yes-I-want-to-get-it-for-you face. Then I said, "Sure, I'll take a small latte."

This conversation happened after he left a bag of Lindor Truffles on my desk with a giant smile. Yesterday it was Rafaello's (also a candy).

If you are thinking "suck up"--you have a point, but I don't think that's it. He likes to bring chocolate for our class to eat, and I appreciate the gesture. At least they are eating something for breakfast. These guys just seem to genuinely like to share stuff--especially delicious chocolate stuff.

The coffee was new today, but who am I to turn down such a nice offer? They all saw how tired I look last night--maybe that's it!

But, after all, I did play volleyball with the students for 3 hours yesterday and I made green bean casserole for their pre-Ramadan party. The candy and coffee guy is my volleyball buddy, too. We played two-on-two yesterday, and if you never played 2's volleyball on a large, open field, let me tell you: it's mostly running after shanked passes and any other ball that doesn't get touched.

At the party, my students fawned over the green beans, and insisted that I eat whatever they had made. They talked with me and introduced me to their cousins. One even made good on his promise to show me part of an Arabic soap opera. Then he showed me pictures of his hometown--Medina--a place I will never be allowed to visit (I'm not a Muslim). He also showed me pictures of best friends from home, previous haircuts, and some delicious wood-fired food from his camping trip.

Another student insisted on finding the missing soccer ball for me and helping clean up after the party. Others were concerned that I looked exhausted (and indeed I was after the volleyball match), and that I better sit down while they got me more lemonade and cake. It's a good life.

I really like my students. They invite me to do lots of things with them, which is very flattering for this nerdy grad student. I'm getting to know their personalities and their culture a lot better from seeing them outside of writing class.

I guess it's always risky to befriend students too much. I still have to grade them, possibly to the point of ending a scholarship, but that's my job. At this point, I feel that I am able to communicate much better with my students because I know them better. I really respect them and I can see better how my class and my coursework fits into their lives and future plans. It's pretty cool.

Ramadan begins tomorrow. That's the month when Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, then celebrate with family and friends at night. It's likely that Ramadan will change my class dynamic significantly (i.e. no coffee and chocolates to wire everyone up), yet I'm already looking forward to Ramadan feasts and late-night Ramadan volleyball matches. I hope they invite me!

Here's to the last weeks of summer, a wonderful group of students, and the feeling that I might have found a great career.