As I walked in the door, the gleam from Dr. L’s shiny, bald head glowed in the fluorescent lights of the computer lab. My heels tapped on the grey carpet, and I wandered over to sit on the far end of the conference table. It had already been a long day, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. You’d think after almost twenty years as a teacher that going into a classroom would hold no enigmas for me, but I wasn’t here to teach the class. No, I was back for the first time in over ten years in a face to face graduate class. Could I compete with these fresh faced English majors, with their enviable free schedules? Could I juggle a family, a full time job, and the coursework? Or would my lack of familiarity with the topic, Rhetoric, affirm the single story that higher education has about classroom teachers?
When my fellow classmates greeted each other by name, their easy familiarity only served to increase my anxiety. I could feel sweat beginning to coil in the small of my back. With few exceptions, they all seemed so young. And when one of them turned to me and asked, “You’re new here. My name’s Adam. What’s yours?” Adam wore a faded concert t-shirt, and the gallon jug of water he set on the table felt pretentious. The hoverboard that he pulled out at the end of class just emphasized: this was not the early 90’s anymore.
Months passed. To prove to myself I could do it, I was one of the first to present my paper on Lacan, a French philosopher who contributed to the idea of rhetoric. I dug into the weekly reflections with relish, trying to make connections from ancient texts like Plato to my modern life. And for the most part, not only did I prove to myself that I could be a graduate student, I also showed those fresh faced English majors students that a high school teacher could stand shoulder to shoulder with them, bravely doing battle with the things we once thought to be true.
And the hoverboard never did catch fire.
Image attributed to https://www.flickr.com/photos/135518748@N08/