I scared another student yesterday.
Which always surprises me -- when I scare a student, I mean, because I think I'm the least scary person on the planet. I mean, first of all, you know, a girl, and second, blonde, and third, while I do own a shotgun, hardly any of my students know about it, and fourth, a liberal, so they have to assume, even if it isn't exactly true, that I'm against most forms of violence, and fifth, I'm a mother, I'm always talking about the kid, and finally, you know, I just look peaceful (don't I?), and anyway, what's to be scared of?
But I do. This one started tearing up during his paper conference. And it was a good conference, too. "What?" I told him. "I'm telling you it's a good paper. This is good. This is good news."
"Sorry," he muttered. "I'm just, uh, I'm scared."
I sat looking at him. Then I looked away. I had started to say, astonished, of what? Of me?, but then I shut up in time.
I just finished the conference and sent him on his way.
Because I remembered when I had been nineteen, and so scared of my professors that I dropped a class once rather than go to a one-on-one conference with my history professor. It wasn't even because the professor was scary -- I barely remember the professor himself -- it was simply because he was a professor.
This is something I suppose we need to keep in mind. We're certain our students are brash and indomitable and perfectly capable of fighting back and standing up for themselves, and I reckon most of them are. But not all of them. Some of them aren't so tough. Some of them do see us as scary authority figures and we can oppress those students. Not quite to the extent that Horowitz fantasizes about, I'm sure, and not so much that I plan to change my reading list, but enough that we ought, maybe, to take some care.