Man, I hate to be a role model. What a chain of mail to put on anybody. You'd think, once they got to college, they'd be through with thinking of teachers--not so much as role models actually--but as people who lead dull and conventional lives.
I got a friend who comes in to class and says, "I am the one your mother and father warned you against. I drink and hang out in bars, I smoke and I...."
I feel like stealing his line. Of course, I knew the line before I heard that he was using it, but I don't steal the line. He got to it first.
The only thing I can do is try to think as teaching as a form of acting, where I am playing a certain role. It's a role one can get into and enjoy.
Joyce Carol Oates husband died not too long ago. She writes of her grief, and how one way she gets through her days is going to play the role of creative writing teacher. None of the students have read any of her stuff. They know nothing about her personally. Playing the role--which is part of her--has helped her continue with life.
Part of the role is to be a little flamboyant, to be a little crazy sometimes. To use the stereotype--and stereotypes have always been used in theater--to your advantage to keep that chain of mail off your body. I'll leave it to presidents and politicians to pretend they're the perfection the electorate so dearly needs to put on them.
I don't mind comforting students. I don't mind offering my two cents of advice if they ask for it. But role model? Do you let them put that on you?