What It’s Like Being Dr. Gary Schnittjer’s Daughter
I am not Dr. Schnittjer’s daughter.
Well, I mean, technically I am. He is my father. But I try to avoid being labeled as such because it puts me right inside of a pre-labeled box with little chance of escape. Let me explain.
I promise you, not a day passes by at Cairn where I am not met with a question of, “Oh my goodness…You’re Dr. Schnittjer’s daughter?! What’s it like having him as a professor? It must be super awkward…” It’s not that I mind responding to these kinds of questions or that I take offense to them. It’s a valid and understandable question, and I often ask the same things of other faculty/staff kids. The one thing that bothers me about answering these kinds of questions is that the conversation usually stops upon responding to the person’s curiosity and they never ask about who I am as an individual apart from whose daughter I am. I think we miss out on who faculty/staff family members are as people aside from their familial role.
So what is it like to be Dr. Schnittjer’s daughter? Honestly, it’s pretty normal. He’s a great dad, don’t get me wrong, but he is just a human on the same level as us all. Sure, he is way more intelligent than most people (including myself) will ever be, but at the end of the day, he goes home, eats dinner, watches Netflix, and goes to bed, just like everyone else. I suppose it would be stranger to have him as a professor if I still lived with him. I’d see him at the kitchen table in the morning and then again from my spot as a student in the back row. But I haven’t lived in the same house as him for over two years now, so there is no weird conflict or anything. My interaction with him is pretty much limited to in the classroom, in the hallways, or during holidays.
I have had my father as a professor three times at Cairn so far. Seeing him in a professional environment isn’t as awkward as people assume it would be. The awkward part is the way students and professors act around me as a result of who my father is.
When I arrive at one of my dad’s classes, there are so many that I receive from my fellow classmates. Students always ask me, “Did we have any homework? Is there a quiz today? When is that assignment due?” I always respond with the fact that I do not have a supernatural knowledge of the syllabus anymore than anyone else has. I guess people assume that I call my dad every morning to ask what we are doing in class that day, what grades everyone got on the quiz, when the next assignment is due, etc. However, just like his other students, I email him if I have a question about the syllabus or the class in general. No big deal.
It’s quite entertaining that my role peaks people’s interest so much.
If I raise my hand in class to ask or answer a question that my dad poses, everyone hardcore stares at me. Or if my father asks me a question in class or asks me to read a passage, it gets so silent and everyone is like, “WOW! He called on his own daughter!” The worst part is when my dad uses an illustration in class. Everyone assumes I know the story he is relaying (which to be fair, sometimes I do) and laughs in my direction. I do not feel awkward sitting as a student in front of my father. But the reactions from my fellow classmates can easily make me feel self-conscious. I never fully get used to it, but it becomes less distracting as the semester progresses.
I really want to say that I hate my dad as a professor. Trust me, it pains me to say this, but he is actually one of my top three favorite professors at Cairn. It’s not because we are related, but because he is honestly a great professor.
But even when I am not in a class taught by Dr. Schnittjer, I am not free from the familial connection.
The first day of any class is a struggle because when they go through attendance, the professor almost always has something to say when they get to my name. “Wow, I’m teaching a fellow professor’s daughter! I better watch what I say.” Or “I went to school with your dad! Now I’m teaching his daughter.” While these comments are welcomed, and sometimes I like that professors just point out this fact and then move on, it is sometimes odd when they say it in front of everyone. There isn’t a single professor or class that I have had (trust me, I wish I was exaggerating) that the professor in the middle of class at some point made a comment about my dad and specifically looked at me and addressed me while saying it. Thankfully, it doesn’t really bother me, but I can see how it may bother some other faculty/staff kids.
My fellow classmates and friends always preface critiques with, “No offense, Jess” when talking about either my dad as a professor or other professors. I am definitely pro-Cairn, as I think this is a great institution, but I can handle others’ opinions without getting too offended. I mean, I personally think my dad is a fantastic professor, but everyone clicks with different professors’ teaching styles.
I did not come to Cairn solely because my father teaches here. God just happened to lead me to the same college that my dad happens to be a professor. And I love it here. Despite having to run into my dad in the hallway or hear his laugh from the next room over.
At the beginning of this article, I said I am not Dr. Schnittjer’s daughter. I am, but I am also me. I am completely unashamed to be related to my father, because he’s a great guy and professor. I am proud to have a dad like him who is so lame that his lameness makes him cool. His laugh never ceases to entertain me and his stupid jokes that aren’t actually funny are hilarious. (If you have never heard his laugh, you truly are missing out.)
I love my dad and who he is, but I also desire to be known as more than just his child. I am an individual person. I am not my father. I am not solely my father’s daughter. I am Jess. I have my own identity that often gets pushed to the side because people are so fascinated with the concept of going to college where your father works.
I am just like you.