Undercover Mother

Back to school: A professor spends a year as an undergrad to study college life

With a much better sense of what it means to "suck at a class," Nathan said she wishes other professors would at least be more curious about the people they're teaching. All the spectacular quotes that the RAs affixed to dorm walls ("The world is but a canvas to the imagination"; "It takes two to speak truth—one to speak, and another to hear") were a little absurd, given the displays outside of kids' rooms— bosomy girls in bathing suits, holding forties. Understanding the enormous gap between student and faculty values has prompted Nathan to be more inventive about the way she presents things in class. "I would have preferred less noise, drama, throwing up, but it made me a better professor," she says. "If kids have to sleep through lectures, I understand. At this point, it'd be pretty hard for me to feel alienated."

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