Three days each week, I eat a late breakfast at our campus snack bar. I like to eat meals in an area where students congregate because I like to talk to students outside class and find out what is going on in their lives. Two other professors, ScienceGuy and Ornithologist, share this philosophy so I am often sitting a table that is a mix of faculty and students. ScienceGuy always brings the morning newspaper with him so we all look at the day's news, fighting over sections. We get into the big discussions: we analyze politics, we give scathing reviews of movies we've seen, we talk about what's going on in courses we are taking or teaching.
Topics this semester have included: Ward Churchill, biotechnology, the Vagina Monologues, Lawrence Summers, thong underwear, Jane Goodall, mountain climbing, the Beach Boys, Michael Crichton, roadkill, body piercings, DNA testing, contra dancing, public education, underage drinking, the Moosewood Cookbook, cell phones, whitewater rafting, and winter camping.
These informal discussions are often the best part of my day, and often whatever we talk about spills over into my classroom. I learn all kinds of new things from these students. Today, one student at the table was cutting up strips of paper and taping them together. When I asked him what he was doing, he took the time to show me how to make a Moebius Strip. Oh, it was the coolest thing.
The group at the table told me I was a nerd for getting so excited by the Moebius Strip. But I say that if I was REALLY a nerd, I would have seen it before ....