I was thinking a little more today about my discomfort talking with profs, and I realized that the profs I've felt most comfortable with are those who've asked, of their own accord, about my life. The prof I RAed for asked me what my story was when I was in her office one time, what had I done before coming to law school. And a couple of weeks ago, I met a prof about my casenote, and he was superhelpful, and then toward the end of the meeting we were just talking about the workload in law school more generally, and he asked, did I have little ones at home? Which really struck me at the time, because I think it is the FIRST time anyone has EVER asked me that.
I suppose it could be seen as an intrusive question, and possibly a sexist one if he wouldn't ask male students the same thing (though I actually think he would). But I actually found it really, really nice (even not having kids)--it just seemed such a welcome recognition that law school isn't the only thing I do (even though it is), that I was a person with an actual life, not just a proto-lawyer-in-training.Honestly, it made me think about my own persona as a prof, and as an advisor to undergrads, and realize how much I probably failed at reaching out to them in even the little ways that can make such a difference. There is a disadvantage to being all business, all the time.