I spent the morning reading for the India game for the Reacting to the Past Conference which begins this week. As an art historian trained in the Byzantine Empire and Western Middle Ages, I am fairly lost reading about India. I will be playing a character that espouses Gandhi’s ideas of non-violence, which, after many pages of reading, I am now happy to know something about. But I will admit that up until now I would be hard-pressed to give details about his life.
While I remind myself that nobody is really ready for these conferences (except for the really hard-core RTTP folks who really get into it), we all are better equipped for such an experience than our students (generally). I recall my first Reacting conference when I was so nervous on the first day that I thought I would throw up. Then Mark Carnes came out and said, “Do you feel nervous enough to vomit? Then you are in the same shoes as your students. Remember this feeling when you hand out roles to them.” And so it went.
This is one the reasons I go back and back year after year – to stretch myself and to remind myself of what it’s like to be learning something all over again — sometimes things that are far beyond my comfort zone.
And this makes me think about our students at McDaniel. Like when a biology major decides to take an art history class. That’s a big shift in thinking for the student. And so, for me, is learning about India and Hinduism AND SO MUCH STUFF THAT I DO NOT KNOW.
I will try to remember this feeling of how bewildered I felt reading for India when we start back in August/September and when I have students attending an art history class for the first time.
And while they may feel like it, I hope that they will not throw up.