The Japanese “kanji” (left) represents the word “sensei,” or teacher. In 2009, I attended a Japan Studies Institute, which included introductory Japanese. Our teacher, Linda Fujikawa, said that “sensei” literally means “been there, done that.” That etymology overturns the assumption that a professor is an expert or superior. A sensei is someone with experience, who understands what it feels like to be a student: to be curious and excited about an unfolding new field of inquiry, to be overwhelmed by complexities, to stumble and grope for skills and understanding. Trying to learn Japanese reminded me how it feels to be a student: it was exciting, overwhelming, and awkward. I’ve been there and done that. I’m a teacher.
My name is Suzanne Churchill (in this class, please call me Suzanne Churchill or Dr. ‘Chill, cuz I’m so chill). I’m excited to team-teach this course with Sundi Richard and to get to know you as as a whole person, both in and out of the classroom. I’ve been teaching at Davidson for 23 years. I can remember exactly how many years only because I landed the job at the same time I found out I was pregnant—with twins. Thomas and Luke have now graduated from college and are living and working in California and D.C., respectively. Their brother, Zac, is a first year at Tufts University. My husband, Matt, is an attorney in Charlotte, at a law firm that has a lot of English majors and opera singers turned lawyers, which makes for a wonderful, quirky corporate culture.
We live in an old house near the center of town, known to long-time residents as Dr. Wood’s office. College students used to be able to get a physical for $6, and Dr. Wood’s kindness and cough medicine were legendary. I like to think he’s the reason why our house has good karma. But I know that it also has to do with our neighborhood, which has a strict policy of well-used front porches, open doors, and free-range kids. Kids used to roam from house to house, while adults hung out together on the front porches and ignored them. Now those kids are old enough to hang out with us, which is even more fun.