Introductions

I asked the students in my online course to introduce themselves before the course begins by leaving a comment on th relevant post of the class blog. Students wrote things like: “I’m Lydia, I’m a Psych major but I have always been interested in Hispanic Civilization,” “I’m James. I’m trying to decide whether to major in French or in Spanish. I’m hoping that this course will help me decide”, etc.

One student, however, wrote the following: “I’m Kyle. I’ve been happily married for 5 years and I’m a father of a beautiful two-year-old baby girl.”

Now I have no idea what to respond to this particular comment. The course hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already weirded out.

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23 comments on “Introductions

  1. Was he one of the first people to post? I always find introductions with “name one interesting thing about yourself” awkward because you never know what types of things people are going to share. Usually somewhere along the line a pattern gets established (“Ah! Everyone else seems to be sharing their majors. I’ll do that too.”), but a lot of the time there are one or two awkward people at the beginning who shared something from a completely different category (hobbies, hometown, family, etc.) before the pattern was established. Maybe it’s just because I’m a very self-conscious person, but I always feel pretty embarrassed when that person is me.

  2. I don’t really see what’s weird or creepy about this. Many people with families volunteer information about them upon meeting someone new.

      • It’s a thing a lot of Americans do to people they don’t personally know. I don’t get it myself. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel it just signals to the world this: “Hi! I’m not sure I’ve made the right decisions about how to live my life so I need to tell strangers about my personal details so I can get affirmation that I’ve done the right thing!” After all, no one is going to respond to someone telling you about his wife and kids with “Ew! You’re a breeder!” (Well, most people wouldn’t.)

        It also lets unscrupulous people know that you have vulnerabilities. Wife and child to threaten… it’s very unwise to go about bragging about your family members, for a number of reasons.

      • I immediately felt like this was an attempt to communicate to me that he won’t be able to pull his weight in class because he has more important responsibilities.

      • Yeah, that too! “I can’t take my exam/turn in my paper on time/come in to important class because my baybee has the sniffles and my wife needs me to hover and worry.”

  3. I don’t think this is too weird or awkward because it’s so generic. Lots of people with young families are extra enthusiastic about their spouse and baby/toddler and mention both in introductions. Now if he said he was unhappily married, that would be weird.

    • “Then it would look like [the single person] was trying to pick someone up.” I think that’s precisely the problem. The _only_ type of sexuality that’s considered “polite” to proclaim is traditional coupled heterosexuality. If a gay person, a polyamorous person, or a single person were to proclaim that status, people would be responding with “TMI!” or “creepy” or would accuse the person of “forcing the gay lifetsyle” in people’s faces. I think what Clarissa is pointing out that _nobody_ should spontaneously proclaim their sexual status in a professional setting. Being a married heterosexual with kids doesn’t automatically exempt you from that basic rule of professional courtesy.

      • Some people react intolerantly to homosexuality, therefore no one else should be allowed to mention their family members? That sounds backwards to me. Maybe the solution is to teach people to be more tolerant, not to make family off-limits for polite conversation.

      • his wasn’t “polite conversation”, though. It’s a very specific situation where very specific information was being solicited. I’ve got to wonder why a student would think that the happiness of his marriage is of any interest to me, his professor. We were not chit-chatting, we are nothing like friends or even acquaintances. Our roles are well-defined here.

      • Well there is a difference between social conversation (in which sexual status is completely a normal topic) and professional conversatoin (in which sexual status and family doesn’t really have a place…..) Clarissa’s example clearly fell under the category of professional conversation. Again, if someone had responded to the prompy by saying “My name is Michael and I’m so happy because I just got married to my 3rd wife and am expecting a baby with my 2nd wife,” most people would think that was inappropriate classroom conversation. So I think the same unspoken “rules” should apply to heteronormative couples.

      • People mention partners, spouses, and kids in classroom and workplace settings all the time. I get that there’s a double standard, but I don’t think that has much to do with the fact that this is a classroom. It’s true that many people would react negatively to a classroom introduction mentioning a third wife, but those people would probably be just as upset if they heard that anywhere else.

      • “People mention partners, spouses, and kids in classroom and workplace settings all the time.”

        - I’ve been teaching for 21 years and this has never happened to me before. Never has a student introduced him or herself this way. Which is precisely why I felt the need to wrote a post about it.

      • ” I think what Clarissa is pointing out that _nobody_ should spontaneously proclaim their sexual status in a professional setting.”

        - Exactly. I just find it very inappropriate and bizarre that the very first (and for now only) bit of information one would choose to share with me as his professor is his family status. Why am I supposed to care, precisely?

      • Off the top of my head, I can think of at least eight of my professors who volunteered the information that they had a spouse, partner, or child *during class time*. Not in outside social interactions. It is a dumb way for someone to introduce himself because as you say, there is no reason for you to care. But there is hardly a consensus that family status should not be mentioned in formal classroom interactions. The student had no way of knowing you would object –unless you said, “Introduce yourself by stating your major” or gave other more specific instructions.

      • If I had a professor who’d come into the classroom and said, “Hi, I’m Professor Smith, I have been happily married for X years and I will be teaching Survey of Spanish Literature” to you, I’d have dropped the course. :-)

  4. I think your being unnecessarily “judgy” and mean spirited. People are sometimes weird and awkward. One would think if you’ve been teaching for so long you wouldn’t be so uptight and make fun of them on your blog, shame on you, and I’m glad I don’t have listen to this negative garbage in real life. …. I’ve been wanting to tell you this for while. I used to really like you….find something more productive to talk about!

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