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Human at the Whiteboard

Anne Marie Merline, University Honors Program,
Anne Marie Merline, University Honors Program,

I always feel blessed at how the connections I make in the classroom remain after we have both left our time together in front of the whiteboard.  The class I teach about the ideas and expressions of community dovetail in nicely with the practice of community between people whose time in their first relationship (teacher-student in these cases) comes to an end, and because of something deeper. Our second relationship, friends outside of the classroom, evolves.

I wrote about moving away from virtual friendships to face-to-face relationships last week. I must say “kudos” to some of my former students for taking the time to meet and talk with me over the last month.

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After many false stops and starts, Luke finally made it over an evening about a month ago.  I knew he could not resist an hour or so around my firepit with s’mores for the taking.  Luke was one of the “more vocal” students in fall 2009 in a course on public education and inequality. I was thrilled when I found out that Luke would be staying in Fort Collins in the admissions office right here on campus. Our friendship is a testament that you can take the relationship off Facebook and to the back patio.

Early in that same week, I got to have Cori over for tea. I had Cori in my course about consumerism and the environment in 2005.  Cori just graduated from Penn State with a Ph.D. Cori changed the way that I teach this class.  The theory of teaching in the social sciences is that you reveal the facts and let the students use their powers of critical thinking to come to their own conclusions.

When the Honors Program was still in Newsom Hall, she sat me down over a cup of tea and told me that giving students a choice about how they think about the environment was unacceptable. She was right. I spend my second semester trying to prove that Americans are degrading the environment and that if we don’t change our consumerist ways, we are all going to suffer. I tell my students that I dedicate my course to Cori and what she taught the teacher.

Stacie, another fall 2009 student, came to a party that I held for my neighbors to build community. Most everyone that came to the soggy night gathering were friends outside of the neighborhood. Kudos to Stacie for being at the party and being comfortable hanging out with middle-aged people talking about their medical issues, and a gaggle of 13-year-olds running willy-nilly all over the neighborhood.

Sarah, who was in the same course with Luke and Stacie, came over this past weekend to peruse my ever-thinning bookshelf for something good to read. I offered her a cup of tea, as well. We spent our time catching up on each other’s lives. We both talked about our jobs, and what we were doing for fun, and of course what we both have been reading.

Sarah is taking CSU’s first free online course about the science of relationships. I realized that I spent most of my time talking with these former students about the relationships they have been a part of in recent months, and of course they had to endure the stories of my recent adventures in midlife dating. These conversations have brought these friends closer to my heart, and I hope mine to theirs. Life is a wonderful thing when chance allows us to meet in a classroom, and leads us to continue on an adventure that we choose as friends.

Anne Marie Merline is a faculty member in the University Honors Program. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com
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