When I was a graduate student, some professors made a practice of inviting the students in their graduate seminars for dinner at their home at the end of the term. Often we sat around, discussing what we'd read during the seminar, talking about books, poems, the state of the world. Usually it felt great because we'd turned in our papers but the prof hadn't had time to look at them, so I didn't feel too anxious about the grade thing. I remember one prof talking about how he wanted us to feel like junior colleagues rather than students. (And he tended to treat us as junior colleagues whom he was mentoring, especially his TAs and research assistants, much to my benefit.)
Since I've come to NorthWoods University, I've invited students in my graduate seminars to my home for dinner at the end of the term. Even in our MA program, I want my students to feel like junior colleagues to the extent I can contribute to that.
I feel awkward as a host for any sort of gathering, but that's life. For these gatherings, I get some pretty good take out food, plenty of soft drinks (yes, you can tell I'm not from the midwest), and we go from there. Usually some students bring some cookies or whatever, which adds to the mix.
Tonight was the night. It felt odd at first. But after a while, we sat around and chatted, and it was fun and relaxing. The food's mostly all gone, and people seemed full enough, so that went okay.
Still, every time, I wonder if I should continue. I think the students like it, like seeing that professors are human beings with homes and lives and rooms full of books. I know I did when I was a student. And yet I seem to be the only professor who does anything like this here, and that feels a little strange. I think some of my more senior colleagues think I'm soft because of it. Or maybe they disapprove for some other reason?