Thursday, November 5, 2009

Go Team

Teaching a seminar with six students who are doing group-based research projects for community partners is pretty damn fun. Okay, there was a heapin' helpin' of anxiety-inducing work to set it up, but now that it is underway, I'm just having a blast. I've decided that this is because my relationship to them is markedly different than in most classes. I'm not there to present material. I'm not making up the assignments (well, I sort of did, but that was based on the needs of the community partners), and it doesn't even really look like I'm responsible for the deadlines (though I mostly am).

Rather than the "teacher," I am a resource. I am a mentor. I should be that for all my classes, but I'm not. I think the difference is partly that there is someone bigger and scarier than me or their grades out there - the community partners. The goal is also bigger -- it is not just about them as individuals and their grade. It is about the projects, projects that have a purpose in the real world. Whatever its source, there is a real "team" feeling to our meetings. They ask my advice, they share their anxieties, they offer to help, they get excited... and they think I'm on their side. And I am.