I'm a 42-year old woman who teaches hundreds of students every quarter at the University of Cincinnati. Truth be told, there were a few occasions during my younger years when several male students expressed a romantic interest in me outside the classroom.
Twenty years later, those complimentary times have long passed. This spring quarter, however, an attractive male brunette majoring in design cast his alluring spell. I was pursued with charm, insistence, creativity and ultimately, I succumbed.
The young man (aged 22) was named Travis and from a biological perspective, I could easily be his mother. I teach and preach the value of decorum and professionalism, but lest you think I comported myself inappropriately, I must clarify the way I was actually courted: academically.
My University of Cincinnati Honors class "Business Etiquette & Professional Image" is offered every spring quarter and capped at a 40-student population size. There's an overwhelming demand for the subject matter; the class fills in fewer than fifteen minutes. Students have revealed they set their alarms at 5:55 in the morning so when official registration begins at 6:00 a.m, they're poised at the computer registration keyboard ready to pounce.
I'd like to think the professor of the course (‘tis me) inspires the early-bird wakeup, but the true Siren's Call is the experiential capstone of a 5-course meal at a four-star downtown Cincinnati restaurant. Flooded with projects, papers, and speeches in that quarter's other classes, a dress-up affair with award-winning food is tuition money apparently well spent.
After the class fills, it's common to receive student emails requesting signed petitions into the class. My habit is to regretfully decline as the enrollment is already higher than I would prefer.
He unexpectedly showed up the first night of class and played every ace in his deck of cards. He nodded as I spoke. He volunteered feedback when others remained silent. He approached me after class with a hopeful facial expression, a course petition slip (which I refused to sign), and (my heart now softened) a pre-written check to cover his portion of the 5-course meal. Checks aren't due until the end of the quarter, so his initiative was optimistic, refreshing, and frankly, touching.
I left the classroom impressed by his enthusiasm, but still not inclined to sign the "add" form.
Then I arrived home and checked--as is my routine each night--my email inbox.
Travis had sent an immediate email thanking me for allowing him to sit in on class, if only this one time. He recapped what we'd covered and emphasized how much he had learned. I'm a sucker for a flawlessly crafted email.
Cue day two.
I returned to campus the next day and checked my faculty mailbox. My hand stopped mid-air as I gasped at the handmade portrait depicted above. Ahhhhhhh, so Travis continues his courtship. Why was this artistical rendering significant?
May was "International Civility Month" and my students were charged that first class with creating (1) a civility slogan and (2) accompanying logo. Our collective task when we left was to brainstorm ideas for either objective.
Travis proactively created a possible logo even though he still yet wasn't in the course. Stunned, I sat, stared, appreciated, and applauded his continued quest. That logo had quick turn-around time and man, I love that. Action! Effort! His behavior revealed him to be a "doer", just the type of scholar I needed in this class.
I signed the form.
What a lovely experience to be courted so.
Were you to ask Travis if he learned in my class, I feel confident he'd say yes. But Travis taught the teacher, and here's what I learned:
1. It never hurts to ask.
2. An initial negative may not be the final answer.
3. Creatively brainstorm ways to achieve your objective.
4. Never forget to send a thank you note.
5. Reassure others that falling in front of people is recoverable.
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