Their behavior is strange to me, it's unpredictable and erratic, but they also appear to exhibit some kind of intelligence. I am fearful they will knock over my lamps, invade my personal space, or ask me embarrassing questions. Finally, they speak to me:
"We are freshmen engineering majors. We come in pieces."
That's when I remember that I signed up for the Faculty Dinner. All the incoming freshmen are paired up with faculty volunteers for a dinner before classes start next week. My group was all engineering majors. The goal is to foster relationships between students and faculty as soon as possible. Studies show this leads to student success and retention, but I'm in it for the free dinner.
This is my fourteenth year to teach at Baylor, and yet I felt nervous about them coming over. Some of my jokes about aliens are actually on target. I feared they may ask me embarrassing questions in their youthful naiveté and nervous energy. But this is not so different from when I go to a party of adults; I feel much the same way then too. I suppose you can take the boy out of the introvert but you can't take the introvert out of the boy.
[A couple of seasoned veterans helped run things and make it easy for me.]
[I fed them at our big table, but then they asked if I had any pie. I said yes, but its circumference was only a little more than three times its diameter. They groaned and said my jokes were irrational.]
[All but two of them are from out of state. I'm the old guy in the back.]
Much to my relief, we actually had a nice time. Everyone was very polite and friendly, and no one embarrassed me or themselves. Martha was great with them and was very engaged. She mingles naturally while I nervously stuff my mouth with brownies purchased for the students. She learns things about their lives quickly and easily. She easily fosters relationships, and I foster Jodi Foster.