living at a boarding school necessitates a level of public engagement that to me, evokes village life. it is comforting, sometimes, being part of an institution.
i live and work in the same location. the department office and my classrooms are a 5-minute walk from my apartment. my co-curricular yoga classes took place in the building next door. musical and theatrical events happen in the courtyards and theater spaces on campus. the dining hall provides me breakfast, lunch and dinner; my friends live in apartments no further than a few minutes’ walk away. the school store- providing essentials such as ice cream bars and tuna sandwiches- is open all afternoon, and the library is open late on weeknights. my apartment is part of a dorm- students can knock on my door at any hour asking to borrow a soup pot or some honey or with a question about their homework. when i am cooking and listening to music and dancing in my kitchen (y’know, to celebrate the weekend), i have to be surreptitious about drinking a glass of red wine because students walk by my window almost constantly. walking to work, i say good morning; walking home, i ask how they’re doing; lunch is nearly always with students and dinner is a public (dining hall) event. (breakfast could be, but i refuse to see anyone before i eat my oatmeal and spend a half hour reading at my own table). i think many colleagues i’ve worked with at schools previously, and especially friends of mine who are not teachers, would be driven mad by the sheer volume of personal interactions that happen during the day, as well as the relentlessly public nature of boarding school life.
i kind of love it, though- sometimes. it reminds me of life in a village. behaviors have consequences and other people are close by, living their lives- their sometimes dramatic, sometimes smaller, sometimes bigger lives – right next to you. i find it a helpful reminder that i do not have the exclusive right to loneliness, or sadness, or exhaustion. talking to kids and seeing what they’re up to- what music video they’re watching, what buzzfeed quiz they’re doing, what crazy hard test they’re studying for, or what they’re wearing to prom- is a good break for me. i like encountering people’s different energy levels, or minute frustrations, or small joys. i feel living in such a small community, with constant interaction, forces a kind of integrity. yes, it can be oppressive- if kids see me out in Amman drinking, it will follow me forever. if i get mad at someone in the dorm, they will always think of it when seeing me thereafter. but i think this can be healthy. because really, we are all social beings, and we all make each other’s identity. i am thankful for the opportunities the many interactions (with faculty, with staff, with students) give me during the day.
… that being said, i am also really happy to have a car, and good friends in Amman, and a private apartment, and an adult sense of confidence and self-knowledge. i think this would be much harder if i had a murkier self-identity. with students, i much prefer respect to popularity. maybe, also, with colleagues.