I always find my professors a little intimidating the first couple of weeks of class before I get to know them a little better. I’m especially afraid of them when they use the Socratic method…but this semester I got a head start. My secured transactions professor offered to take us out to lunch in small groups and put out a sign up sheet the very first class. A couple of friends and I decided to take him up on his offer and went out with him last Wednesday after class. The day that we were scheduled to go out to lunch with him, our Professor started class by saying how disappointed he was in us as a group. I thought he was going to say something about us not understanding the material or something but instead he said that no one had signed up for lunch with him for the rest of the semester. I felt relieved and glad that he really wanted us to sign up for lunch with him. Professor Kaufmann insisted that we had to pick the restaurant so of course we went with Thai food, our favorite. We walked to 9 Tastes in Harvard Square.
The walk over was full of small talk and long awkward pauses because none of us knew what to ask or say at first. About halfway there we came to an understanding that we would just alternate asking questions. By the time we got to 9 Tastes we knew what everyone was doing for the summer and that our professor had clerked for Justice Rehnquist on the Supreme Court. Our conversation in the restaurant was much less awkward. We slowly became more and more comfortable talking. Professor Kaufmann told us how he came to write a biography of Justice Cardozo, what the law school was like forty years ago, and how he came to teach secured transactions. We got to know our professor on a more personal level as well, which was really nice.
I sometimes forget that my professors are people who go home after work and have normal lives. I find that my professors intimidate me less the moment after they mention a child or spouse in an anecdote they tell in class. So getting to know my professors helps me to get over my fear of the Socratic method, which Professor Kaufmann definitely loves to use, and just focus on learning the material rather than freak out because I might be called on next. I definitely think the rest of my class should take advantage and sign up for lunch as soon as possible. Teachers who have been around as long as Professor Kaufmann have a lot of wisdom to share and not taking advantage of that seems just silly.