A Conversation with my Professor

With regards to my last posting, I had an inspiring conversation with a professor yesterday that reminded me of why I am proud to be observant.

This professor recently finished a documentary and over the summer it has been praised left and right within the film festival circuit. I had wanted to meet with him anyway to congratulate him on that film and discuss a project I had in mind. We happened upon each other in a hallway and sat down to catch up. He said that he was actually looking to talk to me anyway, which always takes me by surprise because I haven’t really become particularly close to any one professor, but our conversation really gave me a chance to see a professor’s side of the holiday absences issue I spoke about earlier this week.

He told me that, to be totally honest, it annoyed him that I was missing so much class. The journalism school has had very few observant students over the years and near as I can tell I am the first one in awhile. The class was based around digital media production which mean it was heavily group related AND required a lot of electronic work outside of class time. Not only were holidays going to be an issue, but whomever was stuck with me as their partner lacked help on Shabbat. Begrudgingly, he allowed it, but as the year went on he quickly realized that the strength of conviction meant more than just days off. After conversations together and overhearing me in class with other students, he realized that I was not using the holidays as an excuse would not let the fact that I was missing class exclude me from the responsibilities of my group projects.

One particular moment, he related, that stuck out was towards the end of the year, as our final mini documentary project was wrapping up was when I was working on a schedule with my groups and explaining how I would Friday right up to sundown for the beginning of Shabbat and would be back in the lab the minute Shabbat ended the next night. He had never truly thought about or appreciated taking the time to devote yourself to the deeper connections outside of work and has since come to appreciate the concept of a sabbath significantly more.

Treating this as a learning moment, I’m glad I got to better understand the other side of the coin. We know that within the school’s bylaws we are in our full right to miss these classes for religious reasons. We ask rather than simply letting the professor’s know as a means of formality, but we cannot let this make us seem arrogant. Missing class is not an excuse for missing work, and if we perform better, the figurative target that we may start off having on our backs changes into a respect an admiration that may even transcend the student-teacher barrier.

A great first week of classes to all and happy thirsty Thursday y’all!


About the Author
Gabriel Felder is a rising senior at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. He has also served multiple positions in the GWU Hillel and has largely focused on faith based dialogue on campus.
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