Today, I got the anonymous evaluations back from my first group of students. I was scared shitless to teach. I thought I might be an inherently terrible teacher. Those who have spent time in the ivory tower of academia know that you can have near spiritual experiences in a course, but you can also have a course that feels like a lifetime of suffering.
I was scared because I’m queer. I live in a small college town in Oklahoma for christ’s sake. I get called sir on a daily basis without consciously trying to be seen as male. But I get called ma’am as well. I had this nightmare that I’d walk in the first day of class and half the class would walk out.
But I was also afraid that they would stay, but wouldn’t hear me. That they wouldn’t learn a single thing about writing or the world they had suddenly become adults in. I was worried that my entire appearance and demeanor, along with every horror story this state has taught them about the LGBTQ community, would keep them out of reach.
None of that happened.
Instead, I had fun twice a week with 19 white, middle-to-upper-middle-class, heteronormative kids. It was awesome. My gender identification and sexual orientation did not act as an oppressive white elephant in the classroom. Quite the opposite.
One day, the students participated in a dating game where they created criteria for the perfect date (all this to help them understand the need for defined criteria in an academic evaluation). At one point, a male student, fraternity member mind you, asks what methods I had used to win a girl over on the first date. I couldn’t help but laugh as every one of his cis-male group members looked at me expectantly.
One day, we had a real conversation about racism. That wiped out my lesson plan for the day. But it was worth it. I told them that many think their generation is too disinterested, too busy with their own lives to care about anything. I think they wanted to prove me wrong that day.
We were an unlikely team, my students and I. They reminded me that eventually no one will care who we love or what side of the store our clothes come from. They reminded me that every generation is moving forward.
By the end of the semester I felt my students had learned a lot. Their writing had certainly improved. But I wasn’t sure they felt the same until I got their anonymous evaluations back today.
I’m not one to brag, but there wasn’t a single negative comment.