Monday, February 25, 2008

Namaste's Home for Smart Kids and Wonderful Stray Cats

I had a phone call this afternoon that suddenly modified my aforementioned idea of opening a school or becoming a foster parent, etc. Here it is:

A student of mine lost her mother this semester, and she's just now back on campus. Much like me, she has spent the vast majority of her life caring for her parents and siblings. Also like me, her mother has been sick since her infancy. Losing her mother was a blow, but also a giant release when it comes to the stress she has been under her entire life.

According to the dean (who I just spoke to at length) the class that she is taking with me is her favorite class. She wants to eventually declare a Women's Studies major, and so she obviously needs my class to do this. In doing this thing it is that I do...I have decided to commit a serious amount of energy to this student in order to assure that she will not only do very well in my class, but that she will be able to look back at this transitional moment in her life and be very proud of what she learned and accomplished. Obviously, it is going to take some doing on her part, but she's a good kid, a solid writer, and I am confident that she has the chutzpah to make lemonade out of her semester with me...

Anyway...this is one of those moments that I am writing down and taking note of...so that I don't get so caught up in my self-important rat race in a few years and forget my original intentions. In asking myself what more I can do than just being a college professor, I am starting to think that I should like to settle somewhere and purchase a very large home--not for just for little me, but for the community I wish to build around me. In this home, I will offer residence to a handful of students and scholars each year. Obviously, the selection process will be rigorous, but what I will look for are students who would benefit the most from actually living in a cozy home environment. Some students need this. Others don't. For the ones who do, why is nothing like this offered or available? I am envisioning homemade dinners and a feeling of community and "family" that goes beyond the dorm or Greek experience. I'm sure that there would necessarily be an intellectual and community service based component to this experience. As altruistic as I would like to be, obviously, the rent won't be free, and the bar will be very high for the students who are given the opportunity to lodge in the house. Still, it will be good. The lawn will always be mowed, my furry and floppy-eared pets will always be showered with love, and, if I bring children into this world, then they will have more than their fair share of hands to chase and swing them around.

Part of this comes from recognition of the fact that I really love this age group of college kids. I see myself in their struggles and relate very well to what they are going through. I also just like being around them and their energy, and I don't see this going away as I get older. If anything, maintaining close relationships with young people is what also keeps us young, right?

As the dean pointed out on the phone to me just now, my student has been rendered "without a home to go home to". Imagine...if only...I could bring her home with me...

Namaste

5 comments:

Restaurant Gal said...

Lucky are the students who will spend a moment of the turning point in their lives with you.

VJ said...

A Very interesting & intriguing proposition N. Sort of like a co-housing solution. I think in the distant past this was not totally uncommon, but it was typically within a working relationship, and mainly with grad students. And of course the inevitable 'romantic entanglements' are notable & famous here too. Still this was known from like the 20's up though the 60's to some extent.

There were lots of lost & displaced people from the World Wars who had difficulty making their way in the world as homeless & rootless new immigrants coming into a foreign academic community. Often as not it was the Profs who lived together & the grad students. I think many Profs then as now thought of themselves as 'middle class family men', and if they had families, they sought to have the whole 'normal' nuclear family trip & set up. Still, many of them could not afford Not to take in boarders of various types, sometimes for years. And for the single blokes? It was not at all uncommon to share housing in a very tight housing market with students. And I still think that house sharing was even more common with under grads too back then. For a sort of 'housing allowance' the border would be expected to do some light work around the house and contribute to the household in someway. Run for groceries, be a hostess at parties, a bar tender at functions at the Faculty Club in addition to lab work & the occasional shagging the missus/help/nanny/Prof. That's where literature comes in handy.

This is naturally where thoughts of Oneida come in too. But I'm letting my imagination run away here. Overall, it's a good thought, and Many students lives are just as disrupted today as they were way back when during the interwar & post war period. That's the place to look for immediate antecedents, but there's more ancient ones as well. It's a difficult proposition, but one that can & has worked before. There, finally something useful from me, eh?

Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Kim Ayres said...

Just make sure you get students who know how to wash the dishes, flush the toilets and pick up their discarded clothes...

Alan Ward said...

Your big heart comes to the fore! ;-)

But - a word of caution. It is very well to take the kid under your wing, so to speak, but remember: at some time she will have to fly on her own wings and in her own directions. Be prepared to let go when the time comes.

Namaste said...

lol. thanks, all. i will keep all of this in mind. first stop is the PhD. next stop is crafting my own MTV reality show... :)