After years of planning orientations and directing anxious young students into auditoriums to hear presentations about academics, coursework, and lockers, I participated in my first orientation as a student since freshman orientation at UCSB, an experience that I basically remember as me staring into the eyes of a gorgeous coed as she explained how to choose a major. Now, at Columbia TC, I was the one wearing the colored lanyard and searching desperately for a place to sit where I didn’t have to make immediate chummy conversation. I was the one worried about first impressions, and where my classes would be in the byzantine and beautiful complex on 120th and Amsterdam. But as grad school is so much about social networking, and as we’re all adults (mostly), I made some banter over bagels with a nice crew of students, some fresh faced, some wizened after years of working in schools. Then I made way to the opening ceremonies.
In the auditorium, I found my distinguished Klingenstein cohort and listened to a presentation about the history of Columbia Teachers College, the distinguished alumni, and the many ways my life will be changed by the experience of attending a prestigious university devoted to the enlargement of knowledge, social justice, excellent schools, and innovative education. It was hard not to be moved by some of the video testimonials; a staple of orientation presentations. The prime minister from Namibia spoke about his experiences at TC, prompting me to consider which countries might have me as their PM. The President of TC spoke; she was articulate, anecdotal, and funny. The student speaker was effective; she was all about keeping it real, but she opened up a bit too much, talking about how much crying she used to do during her first class at TC, and how that vulnerability paved the way for future successes. It was actually a powerful message but it got a bit mawkish towards the end. Some people were crying during her presentations but I only cry at the end of Hemingway novels.
Some brief observations as I listened to the very speeches from my perch on the balcony seats at Cowen Hall
- there are still students who take obsessive notes when they don’t have to; they literally scribble everything down in a manic flurry, and never look up from their perfectly organized notebooks.
- So many students, young and old, spend time texting, tweeting, updating profiles, and cybershopping. The girl in front of me watched 7 straight videos of cats mistiming jumps and landing awkwardly.
- Most people work pants and some wore shorts. Determining formal vs. informal dress has been a real struggle for me. West Coast fashion is informal. East Coast style is preppy. I went with shorts and a collared shirt, and I was proud of my decision. Also it was 98 degrees outside. I also was proud of my decision not to wear my new black Crocs, which I was told I can only wear in private.
The second part of our orientation was the divisional orientation, which I greatly enjoyed. There, I was around my new crew, the Kling Crew. And thankfully the average age increased to a manageable level, because many of the other programs have students in their mid 20s; fresh out of college and eager to take kegstands. The Kling crew may or may not want to take keg stands, but they are all impressive educators, with a dynamic and diverse range of experiences, interests, and backgrounds.