By: Shireen Korkzan <email@example.com>
About a month ago, my U.S. History teacher, Peter O’Hara, told the class that he owns a Dance Dance Revolution set, a Playstation 3 and an Xbox gaming system. The whole class called him a “cool guy” since most teachers – let alone older teachers – probably don’t even know what Facebook is, let alone “Halo.” Since I really like Mr. O’Hara, I decided to try and further his “coolness” by asking him how big his barbecue grill is, barbecue grills being, in my opinion, the epitome of cool. Let’s just say it’s big enough that he only uses half of what it’s capable of. Since I confirmed how cool Mr. O’Hara really is, I jokingly suggested that he should host a barbecue for the class. I’ve had teachers in the past who have hosted barbecues for their students; even my middle school bus driver hosted a cookout at one point. My mother used to be a Spanish teacher at Park Tudor School and she’d have a Nicaraguan (her native country) fiesta at our house every year, despite complaints from my father who always ended up having to clean up afterwards. Obviously I expected my fellow peers to agree with me and try to convince our teacher to host said barbecue.
But the answer I got was less than I expected.
Across my desk, a girl kept blurting out, “That’s creepy!” I started explaining my views on why it’s not creepy for teachers to host such fun events until Mr. O’Hara interrupted, and then the class was back to learning U.S. history. But since I am stubborn and always have to have the last word, I am going to use to power of the press to explain exactly why it is not creepy for students to enjoy a barbecue at their teachers’ houses:
It’s great for socializing. I would have agreed with my classmate that having a barbecue at a teacher’s house is creepy but only if it were just one or two students. But if an entire class were to go then it would not only be fun but it would be a great way for students to get to know their fellow peers, which can lead to study groups and possibly even long lasting friendships.
But another positive of said social event is you’ll get to know your teacher. Teachers are people, too; they have a home and they have a family just like everyone else. They don’t just sit at their desk all hours of the day. Teachers have interests and emotions, things they love and hate. They have stories to tell and qualities about them that make them unique. John Love, speech and group discussion teacher, was in the movie “Hoosiers,” for example. Choir teacher Diana Gillespie sat right in the area where former IU basketball coach Bob Knight lost his temper and threw a chair. Did these events affect the way Love became a fan of basketball or why Gillespie detests it? How else would you know but by spending a little bit of time with them?
It’s a lot easier to approach a teacher than it seems (unless he or she is undoubtedly evil). My first impression of Mr. O’Hara was when I interviewed him for HiLite last year. He never smiled and seemed like he would grunt at me if he could. When we were finished he left for lunch and I followed behind since the communications area is on the way to the main cafeteria. At one point he turned around and asked, “Are you following me?” Obviously I had some nice things to say about him once I went back to the HiLite room to type up my story. And of course I was irked when I got my schedule and found out that he was going to be my U.S. history teacher. I kept thinking, “This is going to be hell;” and it was for the first month. We had nothing in common politically and we kept debating our sides after class. It wasn’t until I insulted IU’s football team during class that we started bonding as teacher and student (Mr. O’Hara is a huge Ohio State fan). By now I’m comfortable enough to ask Mr. O’Hara to host a barbecue for his classes, even if he politely declines. I would not have been able to do this if I knew nothing about him.
It’s too bad that Mr. O’Hara rejected my idea. His barbecues are for football coaches only, he said. But, the barbecue notwithstanding, I’m glad I had a chance to meet Mr. O’Hara, not only as a teacher but also as a person. Chances are, if you were to ask most teachers why they do what they do for a living, they’d mention some influential teacher – like a Mr. O’Hara – that they had.
It’s having these kinds of connections that make school worthwhile. And even without the barbecue, I’m glad I’ve made those connections. Shireen Korkzan is a reporter for the HiLite. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.