Pomp and CircumstanceI've been teaching mostly intro-level courses lately; a combination of departmental needs, the schedule-juggling brought about by widowhood and single parenting, and various other factors. This means that the current graduation ceremonies are relatively free of emotional entanglements for me; I know only a few of the graduates well, and have been surprised, in fact, by the number I don't know at all.
But in a small ceremony to celebrate their graduates, I received an honorary citation from our campus GLBT/etc. community, and got to listen to a lovely speech by a student I've worked with several times. The speech was lovely in part because the student writes well, speaks well, and is in general one of those shy, timid students who just blossoms at a SLAC; it's been a great pleasure to watch this student mature into a quiet "star" on campus. The speech was also lovely because the student said some very, very nice things about my teaching, and in particular the role my matter-of-fact approach to homosexuality played in the student's own coming-out process. Working with texts that present "alternate identities" (I know, I know, alternate to what?) is something very important to me; helping to challenge those normative 1950s values so many of my students bring to college is also a key element of my pedagogy. [So is debunking the whole question of "normal" experience as white and upper-middle class, and challenging assumptions about identity--sexual, racial, cultural--as somehow definitive of one's personhood].
So it was unbelievably gratifying, and humbling, to hear that my work had so much meaning for this one student. I think this is the most important "award" I have ever received for my teaching--or will ever receive.
Labels: good stuff