Monday, January 08, 2007

Welcome, daughter, home returning

Welcome, daughter.

As I wound my way up the hill, taking that familiar turns with ease, I couldn't help but smile. Little Michelle, who used to be scared of her own shadow, was driving to orientation so that come Saturday, January 6, she could stand before a room of countless strangers and talk about long-dead cultures and political bodies.

One resolution realized: return to Seton Hill to teach.

The phrase that I titled this blog with was the welcoming phrase for alum weekend over a decade ago, when SHU was SHC and the population was "predominantly female." The welcome stuck with me all these years, then came to mind as I made that final turn and Admin came into view.

I felt as if I truly were coming home. The Hill where I spent my post-secondary years was indeed my home, where I came into my own.

I thought of my room Brownlee Hall -- one of the "infamous" triples, where three women were crammed into a space meant for two. I had the loft. That year I was a typist on the Setonian, and I had a won a role in a one-act play. I met boys and men and played an awful lot of pool.

Life on Fourth Admin, short as it was, a learning experience. I'll say no more on those two months save that I learned how to get up, shower, grab some toast and juice, then roll into class in under a half-hour. I became the Setonian's Production Editor and ate too many Eat-n-Park Smiley Cookies.

My one-and-a-half years in Havey Hall, the one with a woman exactly like me but completely different. I drove her crazy with my procrastination, being the antithesis of her organized and proactive self. We had a sink in the room and thought it the lap of luxury. The Setonian became my life as I was named Editor -- so much so that the big guy bet me that I couldn't go a week without talking about it. I think I nearly bit my tongue in half to do it, but I somehow won the bet. The pool table was still a looming figure in my social life, which was easy to understand being that it was in the Havey lounge.

My final year in my then-boyfriend-now-husband's old room: 526 Canevin Hall. My own room, nary a single roommate, but neighbors who made life quite pleasant. Another year as Editor. Peace was made with the former perfectionist roommate, which was easy once we weren't living together. During Senior Week, a number of us women sharked at the bars we went to. Not too many men thought that a bunch of giggly college girls knew which end of the cue to use, let alone how to sink those solids and stripes just so. We got a lot of free food and drinks that week.

I student taught that year, taking over a ninth grade history class where a young girl threw her books out the window, brought in her pet newts in her purse, and set her desk on fire. (No wonder I'm so calm in the classroom when someone tells me she just got out of jail for trying to murder her stepmother. I don't panic. I just ask if she's planning to do that to me.)

Four too-short years for this Setonian girl.

Welcome, daughter. Welcome back to your window seat in third Maura solarium, where you would sit and wait for the big guy to get out of Spanish class. Welcome back to Lowe Dining Hall where your mother-in-law works and where your son is known by everyone there. Welcome to where you learned to define yourself by yourself -- rather then by others' ideals.

Come Saturday I'd be the teacher, standing before the class... not sitting in the ancient wooden paddle desks where Lori carved her love for Blaine. Those desks, by the way, are just about gone. Replaced by tables and cushioned chairs. The few podiums we had are now sleek black ones that house an amazing amount of technology.

Western Cultural Traditions, WCT for short, is no longer a survey course taught to the entire sophmore class at once. The auditorium-style lecture that I remembered has been replaced by small groups. There are no longer different lecturers each week -- just the teacher. That, incidentally, would be me.

Did I ever mention that my first degree was history?

It's a testament to my education at SHC that I am able to walk into a room and teach history for nearly four hours, despite being out of the history classroom for eight years. As I prepared for the class, it all came back to me. Dead kings and ancient maps were as fresh in my memory as they were fourteen years ago when I was sitting in those blasted paddle desks and reading the graffiti'd history of generations of Hill girls. Somehow I retained much more then I thought I had.

It's a testament, too, to that same education that I've been able to make the transition from high school to business college, and now to the university, classroom with little difficulty. You see, Saturday went swimmingly. Over-prepared and quite confident, I managed to hide my nerves and come across (I think!) as if I'd been standing before a room of undergrads for years.

Standing in 228 Maura, in a room that was once tiered and now not, in a room where I watched student government elections and dogged the student reps with questions on accuracy and ethics, I did it. I stood and lectured and oversaw groupwork. I fielded questions without blinking or breaking a sweat. I made them think.


Me, doing that. Wow.

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