When I started my current job, right out of graduate school, my departmental colleagues didn’t do a whole lot to help me adjust. They meant well, but they either didn’t say anything about starting professional life or they said things that were insane. For example: “we don’t want you to get bored, so we’re giving you a lot of new preps.” As if the problem of the first years of teaching might be boredom.

So I resolved that if the time came, I would be a good and useful senior colleague by helping out new faculty. And lo, the time has come, and there are new faculty.

But I’ve done so well at being unintimidating that they play practical jokes on me, e.g., replacing my office name plate with various hilarious alternatives. This is fantastic, in itself, but the wrinkle is I can’t strike back. If I do anything at all I’d be picking on poor defenseless assistant professors, and to make matters worse– I’d be demeaning female faculty, perhaps in front of students. (This last one I take seriously because students are so bad at figuring out where boundaries are in the first place.) So they win in virtue of their powerlessness. The pupil has become the master.