Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why Academic Support?

I am just warning readers upfront that this post is about me.  I will work in some stuff about the field of Academic Support in the end; but consider yourself warned:   I think this post is mainly personal.  Feel free to stop reading now and/or go directly to the end for the ASP angle. 

Sometimes students ask me why I work in Academic Support.  I did have a (now, seemingly brief) career as a prosecutor in New York, I have taught first year legal writing and still do teach Advanced Legal Writing as well as an Intro. to U.S. Law class for our LL.M. program.  But something that happened to me just yesterday is probably the most illustrative of why I think I belong in Academic Support.  Yesterday, like every day, I took the Green line to work.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Boston subway system, the Green line moves hugely packed, sometimes horribly ventilated, and yet very small trolleys of people from West to East (and vice versa in the evening, or whenever the Red Sox are playing a home game).  I get off the train at a large station called Park Street.  Even though I was running late yesterday, I would say about a hundred fellow sardines-I mean commuters-got off the train with me and we streamed out into the plaza at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets.  I paid no attention to the guy who sells tourists t-shirts from a quaint looking pushcart on the plaza because I see him every day and I consider myself a local.  But yesterday he came right up to me, thrust a cell phone in my face and beseeched me to call 911 because his English wasn’t very good.  He pointed to a person leaning heavily over a bunch of newspaper boxes, shaking and clearly ill.  This young man had his cell phone in his hand and said that he had already called for an ambulance.  I asked him if he had a medical condition (as if I could have offered any better help if I knew that), he said no, he had been fine until about ten minutes before.  I ran back down into the subway station to see if there was anyone there who could help but could not find a soul who worked for the T.  Then I remembered that I had seen a Mounted Police Officer when I first come above-ground-surely I could find such a large horse quickly-and so I did.  The horse and his Boston Police Officer were across the street.  I ran across Tremont St (for those of you unfamiliar with Boston geography and/or drivers, you should know that this was really stupid of me) and asked the Officer to come and help this man. (I could spend some time telling you about how absolutely gigantic this horse was and what a silly city girl I am about large animals really close up, but I won’t-suffice it say I was almost silenced by the size of this animal).  He turned the horse around and trotted across the street to help.  As I walked towards my office, I saw the ambulance arriving.  My guess (and hope) is that this man was in the ER at Mass.General before I had hung up my jacket at work and home in one piece before I even set foot back on the train. 

Yet, I had to wonder:  out of the hundred or so people walking in the same direction, why me?  But I wasn’t really surprised.  I often get asked for directions, (at least once a day-ask my husband) here in Boston, but also everywhere else I have ever lived or traveled.  I often get asked in languages I don’t speak to help people find places I have never visited.  I also take at least one picture a day of visiting tourists who trust me with their cameras.  I always thought it was because I look harmless (go ahead, take a minute and click on my blog profile), but now I think there is a better explanation.  Maybe, just maybe, I look like the kind of person who would help you if you needed help and maybe, and I really hope this is true, I am. 

So that is why I work in Academic Support-and why I think all of us do-because we are willing to help and we don’t look like people who would steal your camera (even if no one would ever believe the size of the horse without a picture). (ezs)

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