Within the first few weeks of school I had a student who emailed me and asked to meet with me during my office hours. She said she would come around 2:45 pm and I assured her I would be waiting for her. That day, I needed to transfer some video from my camera to DVD so I left a note that she (or any other students) could find me in the media lab. My task at hand was to transfer footage of dancing and drumming from my trip to Ghana to the computer. The sounds and images caught a lot of people's attention and many people, some I knew, some I didn't, came up to me, watched the footage with me for a bit and asked questions.
There was one young lady in particular who seemed very interested and sat with me for a long while watching and asking me questions. Meanwhile I was thinking to myself, Where is my student? 2:45 came and went, 3:00... 3:15... I went down to my office to make sure she was not there waiting for me outside of my door. She wasn't... 3:30. I was finished with my work at the computer and the young lady who had been sitting with me finally says, "So I wanted to chat with you about class..."
What?! This girl never said anything to me! Given that my class had only met three times, I'd recognized her face but did not yet know her name. I felt so terrible that I had been sitting there without recognizing her. I wondered if she just assumed that because I was the teacher that I knew exactly who she was, in which case I would feel like I had then abused my power for making her sit there and wait for me to finish my work.
When relating this story to a peer he noted that when he was a child he believed that his teachers actually lived in the classroom. He had no idea that they went home to their own families and lives and that infact, teachers are people too.
I tell these stories because it reminds me that the people who we look up to, our mentors, guides, and educators are human and indeed fallible, including myself. But when does simple human fallibility cross the line to blatant unprofessionalism or disregard? We can not expect everyone to be perfect, but to what extent do we allow there to be holes in our standards? Where is the accountability?
I know I'm always comparing everything to Barnard, but I have to say that I almost never had to ask these questions when it came to the faculty who I interacted with. I don't know if it is because I am now a grad student that I see and hear more, or because of my current institution, but I when I come up against these things, it is often just a reminder for me to be the best teacher that I can be, even when I make a few mistakes.
P.S. I finally know their names!