I think they're warming up to me

Friday, November 11, 2011

In many of my posts about this second-time-around college experience, I realized how much I mention the age disparity between myself and my classmates. The community college population had much more diversity in that regard but I knew that the majority of university students were there post-high school not pre-menopause. I was definitely out of my comfort zone--and then some. I knew that I wouldn't have much in common with my fellow teacher candidates but I hoped I wouldn't feel like as much of a fish out of water as I did during orientation.

Being my naturally initiating, out-going, inquisitive self I tried to get to know the other young men and women in my classes. In the second week when we started doing peer reviews it became clear to me that my seatmates were reluctant to offer me any constructive criticism. No one was going to diss the "mom." ( And it probably didn't help that I wrote one girl's name on her notecard for her. Total mom move.) Every time we gave feedback after our presentations, the only person who pointed out where I needed improvement was the professor! In spite of my efforts to be treated as their peer, the reality is that number one: I am not. And number two: there is the natural respect that occurs when in the presence of someone significantly older than you. The combination of these two facts guaranteed that I wasn't going to be making friends on campus. Even though I could accept it, I still felt like the girl who didn't get invited to the party.(literally and figuratively)

By week three one sweet young thing warmed up to me enough to friend me on Facebook. The next day when I sat down at her table, she said "I think it's so cool that you don't dress like a mom. You're like 'hip mom'." At least she didn't say "stop trying to look like one of us." I started to clue in that they just didn't know what to make of me. I didn't fit into the box.

Two weeks ago one of my classes had a site visit--which happened to be at Ian's middle school. One of the guys in my class wants to be a math teacher and we were there during first period. Ian has math at this time and his teacher happens to be one of the coolest guys out there. I asked my classmate if he wanted to meet the best math teacher on the planet and he agreed. Within minutes, he and Mr. C hit it off and Mr. C. offered to write a work study grant to get this guy a part time job in his class. As we walked out into the hall, he spied my son's "All About Me" poster with several mountain biking pictures. He inquired about his interests and then looked at our family photo and asked "is this your family?" Suddenly I became a real person to him--kind of like the first time you see your teacher at the grocery store and realize she doesn't sleep at the school. He then wanted to know how old my boys were, etc. We started talking about snow boarding and the boys getting their seasons' passes last week. He mentioned having an extra board and wanted to know how tall my oldest was. A couple days later I walked into class and there was a snowboard leaning up on the wall behind his seat. He GAVE it to me for Quinn.

This week was the clincher. As I sat down next to my Facebook friend the other day she asked "Dana, do you drive a mini-van?" I hesitated to answer the question not knowing where she was going with it. I figured my "hip mom" status was about to be removed. When I told her I did, she laughed and said she and another classmate had made a bet about it and she said I was too much of a cool mom to drive one. She then turned around to the other girl and announced that she was right about me and FB friend was wrong. They both laughed and then FB friend admitted that they were talking about me again yesterday and future FB friend asked current FB friend "Does Dana have a husband?" I guess she missed the wedding ring on my left hand. FB friend informed me that she told her "Yes she does. We are friends on Facebook and she pretty much has dream family. In fact I'm pretty sure she has the white picket fence too." This was when I laughed!!

I think what had intimidated me the most about starting this program was the knowledge that I would be collaborating with men and women half my age who already knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I felt embarrassed that I am just figuring it out in mid-life. I think I felt like I had to make excuses for this. But I also realize that there is no guarantee that they won't feel like I do when they're twenty years down the road. I'm not going to be "one of them" by virtue of where I'm at in life but I can be their mentor, co-collaborator and, possibly, their co-worker. And it's okay. This is so much better the second time around.


3 Responses to “I think they're warming up to me”

Della said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Della said...

Came across this blog by "accident" and just love it! After teaching for 25 years, I am back in grad school with 20 somethings ... I laughed through your post ... oh, can I relate. I am older than the moms of some of my classmates, but it's been fun. Thanks for sharing your stories ... with the wonderful humor. I'll be back to read more. In the meantime, best to you in school.

Dana Hope said...

Thanks so much, Della! I'm glad I could provide some humor for you. The questions are getting a little more probing lately and I am becoming so endeared to these young women. Best of luck to you in completing your Masters! Way to go!