Friday, November 22, 2002

Friendship is a Sheltering Tree

Up late late late last night chatting to Molly, to whom I am proud to offer a supportive ear. It's good to have a friend like Molly. We have a lot in common: music, style, literature, philosophy...and that amorphous, ill-defined thing, that spark, which makes some people connect quickly and easily, like you've known them all your life.

I used to think that sort of connection with students wasn't appropriate. Some teachers feel that way inherently. But after finding that spark with Ellen last year, and finding a great friendship there, I no longer resist such opportunities, but embrace them. I know what I would be missing, now, and refuse to miss it just because of how some insitution sees lines and delineations in my life.

Funny how hard it is for most of us in most situations to get past the roles we play: how the line between mentor and student never fades or fuzzes with and for most students, but the same line gets so blurry with a few special kids each year...especially with digital technologies like blogs or AIM, which really create an entirely different power and position balance between people than the classroom setting does, a good platform for a student/teacher dynamic to turn into a friend/friend dynamic. Sometimes I wish more students could put aside the "fear of teacher," but I'm happy to take what I can get. Keeps me from feeling too old, anyway, to have young friends with new perspectives and fresh ideas.

The challenge, of course, is that students move on. Each one graduates after a while, while I stay here. What I hear from other teachers who embrace the "I commune with people of all ages" aspect of boarding school life as productive and celebratory is that such friendships will indeed seem to lose some of their immediacy as they move on and I...stay behind. Certainly I haven't spoken with Ellen since she started college this Fall. But some friendships are always situational, some friends are always less "there when you need them" and more "there when they're there." In my memory, I see those friendships as strong, and am glad for having had them. Maybe that's a Good Thing.

Molly needs support, as her life is about to hit a rough patch for a while, and there's not much she can do about it. But it's not my place to tell her story. See her blog for more if you want to lend your own supportive ear.

Gone Fishin'

In other news, we leave tomorrow morning for West Palm Beach to visit my father's parents, a cheerful but failing couple who are almost ninety and will likely never leave the state again, although they can still take care of themselves and each other. My mother's mother passed away two days before Willow was born this summer; it's a bit morbid to realize that we're in such a hurry for Willow to meet the "other" grandparents, even though they were never the "favorite" grandparents, because this may be their only chance. She won't remember the visit, but we'll be able to tell her about it later in life. I never knew my own great grandmother either, but seeing myself as an infant in crumbly black-and-white on her lap has become a source of strength in my adult life nonetheless.

Surely I'll have much to relate about family, feuds, fate, Florida, and flying with babies when I return on Wednesday. Might make a nice prelude to Thanksgiving, surely a rich vein for the happy blogger.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:50 PM |

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