Professor’s Kid

Along with such benefits as a bachelor’s degree, a viable future career, lifelong friendships, and a deep appreciation for a fridge full of non-cafeteria food, my years as an undergrad student have helped me understand the significance of being a professor’s kid.

I was nine years old, sitting on a pool deck in a damp swim suit, the first time my father’s profession seemed anything but normal to me. Minutes earlier, I had accompanied a friend up to the bleachers, to visit our respective parents. My father sat, cross-legged, wearing the university sweatshirt and blue jeans that constitute his Saturday wardrobe, a stack of student papers beside him. Grading.

My friend and I exchanged greetings with each of our fathers, she begged a $5 off of hers, and we took off again, our suits dripping splatters of chlorinated water all the way past the concession stand, then again to the pool deck.

Is your dad a teacher? My friend asked as she stashed the $4.75 change from her Ring-Pop snack in her bulky swim backpack. Well, yea. A professor. I nodded, as we settled into the now-wet towels we had used to delineate our space on the tiled pool deck. Wow, that’s so cool! She exclaimed, and I caught a glimpse of her tongue, already tinged blue from the Ring-Pop. I shrugged, nodded. Yea, it was cool. And normal.

Ten years passed, during which time my father’s role as researcher, professor, and grad student advisor allowed my family to spent significant time in both Europe and Mexico, and I arrived at college with a healthy appreciation for his career as an educator. The elusive hours that he spent in meetings, giving lectures, and researching whatever one in the material science department researches translated to months in Paris, wonderful friendships developed in Mexico, and a father I was proud of.

Enter my own college career.

Sometime early in my second year at school, I found myself singing the proverbial praises of one of my own professors. His lectures were well-planned, engaging, and featured the occasional culturally-relevant joke. He showed movies in class (yes, they were historical documentaries, but every main character was British, so that’s something), had written both academic and fiction books, and even called on me once in class. As an added bonus, I did well on his online exams, which, while graded completely objectively, inclined me to look upon his class favorably.

Sitting in my room one fall afternoon, relating to The Roommate the latest class shenanigans, it suddenly dawned on me that there are students at a campus not 15 miles from my own, who sit in desks, pens in hand, bookbags slumped at their feet, and listen to my own father give lectures. My mind temporarily blown by this sudden eye-opening, I suddenly had a million and one questions.

Does my father administer online quizzes? Are they open book?

Does he use powerpoint?

What is his grading scale?

And attendance! There are as many ways to take attendance as there are professors. Pass the sign-in sheet? Call names? Attendance via quizzes? Not take it at all?

Did he make jokes? Were they dad jokes? Professor jokes? Material science jokes?

I was suddenly aware of a vast array of facets of my father’s profession, and felt as if I could connect with him in an entirely new way. To that end, I have taken it upon myself, in recent months, to supply my father with links to any exceptionally entertaining internet amusement.

A man sings Let it Go in 18 different Disney voices? I sent it the link to my father.

The voice of Winnie the Pooh reads Darth Vader’s line? Emailed him that one.

I even made him watch What Does the Fox Say.

Memes. YouTube. Pictures.

It’s not often, but every once in awhile, I find something great, and I send it to the father. Because professors these days, they’re a smart, witty, sweater-and-crinkled-khaki bunch, with knowledge and know-how on all manner of things. And if there ever comes a moment where my father, resplendent in his button up and laser pointer, is challenged on YouTube knowledge, he’ll know that, too.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mindy Pavelski
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 03:15:00

    Isn’t it interesting that now the “Professor’s Kid” is going to be join the academic world in a teaching role too? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It sometimes takes a long time to appreciate our parents. I am glad that today was dedicated to your dear father! He and your mom are so special to us. Now we know that he is prepared for anything with the new knowledge you have shared with him.


    • nataliaria
      Apr 25, 2014 @ 12:57:38

      Thank you! :) I actually labored for awhile about what to write on this evening; I’m glad to hear that you liked this as much as I enjoyed writing it!


  2. Grandma S.
    Apr 22, 2014 @ 16:32:52

    Natalie, you and your dad come from a long line of teachers, especially on Grandpa Shull’s side. You’re going to be the next generation of educators. Hold the banner high! And never assign homework over weekends.


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