Saturday, March 15, 2008

Love is in the air...

So, two of my former students got married today. This was not a surprise; I don't think I ever saw one of them without the other for as long as I'd known them. (You can tell they were my students, because the bride walked down the aisle to the theme of Aerith. And the two figures on the top of the wedding cake were Tidus and Yuna.)

It was a strange feeling, being part of that. I certainly never would have dreamed of inviting any of my professors to meet my family when I was an undergrad. (My wife, who tried to get to know some of her professors outside of class, was repeatedly told that it was somehow "wrong" or "inappropriate" or "unprofessional" for reasons that I've yet to understand.) Yet, the whole thing doesn't make me feel weird or freaky. It makes me feel pretty special, actually.

I think this kind of thing might be specific to game professors, and maybe a few other professions. I'm teaching people how to go after their dream jobs, and part of that is learning about what their dreams actually are. Students don't typically seek game jobs for the fame or prestige or high pay; goals and hopes and dreams are always on the surface, and these things are very personal. So, I suppose it's much easier to know students on a personal level if you're teaching in this field, as opposed to teaching calculus, or quantum physics, or signals and systems.

At the same time, there was another strange thing I didn't expect: I didn't actually know anyone in the room. I saw these two students outside of class a lot of the time, so I figured I'd spot at least a few of the people I saw them hang out with. Instead I was in a room with a hundred strangers, and it made me realize just how much I didn't know about them. And I realized I'd felt this way before when I was a student, when I'd see one of my professors in the bathroom or the grocery store or something, and it was like "whoa, they're an actual human being with a life outside of the lecture hall?" And now I see the same thing in reverse -- whoa, my students have actual lives outside of my classes that I don't actually know about! (I used to think this was because there were all these formal barriers between students and professors that the professors put in the way intentionally; now I think it's just a by-product of seeing a person on a regular basis for only a few hours a week, so that you "know" them but only in a narrow context.)

So, for those of you in the industry who are considering teaching, this is the kind of stuff that I hope you have to look forward to. And yes, since I know you'll ask, the cake was delicious and moist.

Good luck, you crazy kids.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, most of our friends, being people in our class, i.e. the people you would probably know, couldn't make it. The perils of having a wedding at the outset of finals week.

P.S. I hope my dad wasn't too weird for you.

Anonymous said...

That was very touching, and somehow made all the more so by the Portal reference.

Lewis Pulsipher said...

It's a generational thing, Ian. Baby Boomers expected standoffishness (now there's a word!). Gen Xers were loners. Millennials are gregarious, and expect authority figures to be friendly if not actually friends (their parents, for example). Millennials have parents who, by and large, actually wanted children, rather than having little practical way to avoid having them.

So the conventional wisdom now is "make friends with your students" (up to a point), "take a student to lunch". As long as you can avoid an appearance of favoritism.

I am old enough to be grandfather of the younger students, so it can be a bit harder for me to get students to see me as a person.

I figure, if I happen to tease a female student and she whacks me one without thinking (the way she might a lad her own age, not trying to hurt), then I'm doing something right!