Dogpark Geek | Tomb Raider or College Professor?

As a college professor who teaches in the performing arts and communication arts fields there is a bit of latitude that is extended to me by my administration and colleagues when it comes to my behaviors and daily dress. I’ve been known to lecture in my Mass Effect hoodie and Dr. Martens combat boots. I can ignore the calendar year of my age and channel my inner twenty-something when it comes to some of the shenanigans I get up to in my adult and professional life, and that helps when trying to connect with students of a different generation. Also, being in the arts lends itself to (or conveniently provides the excuse for) eccentric behavior.

This isn’t to say that I am unprofessional on the job, but I am an artist and academic who teaches in an environment that demands critical thinking and therefore I find it hard to be a creature of conformity. By nature, I am someone who tends to issue dissent in regards to the policies of the powers that be. But, I am also a responsible homeowner with a mortgage and two lovable dogs who's  trying to stay afloat paycheck to paycheck in an expensive cost of living region. I’ve loved and lost,  I am still making mistakes and learning from them all the time.

As an educator I push myself and my students to think outside the proverbial box. Together we tackle not only ways to be creative in the performing arts, specifically theatre (which is my primary teaching focus), but we also examine cultural and socials issues. I try not to shy away from controversy and work to create a safe space to explore today’s issues. I am a 40-year-old white male teaching at a primarily African-American institution with a strong population of International Students; it would be disingenuous to deny that fact in my classroom. And while I grew up in a multicultural integrated community, my students of color have an active voice with regards to White-Privilege, Black Lives Matters, and White-Washing. They come from experiences I have not lived. I can only hope I learn as much from them as they might from me.

And, you know what else I learn from my students? Current Pop-Culture and Geek Culture trends. My students are the elixir that feeds my Peter Pan existence. I love them for it. There is no denying I am no longer in my my teens and twenties…. or even thirties, even as I’ve held on tightly to those things from my youth that are important to me. A lot of those things existed outside the mainstream then but are much more in the accepted public consciousness now. I can’t tell you how rewarding it can be to get into a conversation with students over The Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not just because its fun, but because it builds trust and allows for the classroom to become a place where harder topics can be explored.

I feel connected and a lot of that has to do with my students. I know my age shines through at times….and that’s part of the adventure for me. For example, I am always stunned when the self-appointed Anime experts amongst my students (and there are many) state they’ve never seen Akira. This floors me all the time. And then I come to the realization they also will never know the struggle of trying to obtain Anime in the late 80’s and early 90’s….I have to chuckle.

I’m fortunate to have a career in this kind of environment.

Thanks for reading this first entry in Dogpark Geek. I’ll still be contributing traditional articles to the Neverending Digression, but I hope you will find value in the content here as well.

Coming next: Adulting vs. Roleplaying. The tussle to maintain an ongoing pen and paper campaign in a world of mortgages and childcare.

Dogpark Geek is a series of articles on The Neverending Digression where The House of Bella and Baron examines his experiences and shares his opinions on being a grown-up participating in the geekier side of popular culture.


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