by Cora Markowitz
Charlotte’s Web and James and the Giant Peach are on the reading list of Hallie Schulwolf ’17 for this semester. No, these aren’t part of her coursework, but are to be read out loud to the children of Assistant Professor of Drama and Film Jim Dennen, who has two girls, one an infant and one four year old.
“Whenever I babysit for the kids, we read Charlotte’s Web or James and the Giant Peach. It’s really nice; I [lie] on her bed with her and we just read a lot,” Schulwolf said. “I think it’s really amazing that she’s four and she’s reading Charlotte’s Web and comprehending it.”
Schulwolf finds babysitting has been a good way of keeping in touch with one of her favorite professors.
“I really enjoyed being in [Dennen’s] class last semester and I think he’s a great professor, so it’s really nice to still have time with him. I don’t know if I’m going to pursue drama as my major, so it’s been really nice to still have a tie to the Department,” Schulwolf said.
Kenyon is often heavily praised for the close relationships that arepossible between students and professors. Nowhere is this better exemplified than when a student turns into a babysitter and a professor turns into a parent, changing the classroom dynamic.
Jenny Ruymann ’15, who babysits for Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach Doug Misarti, echoed this sentiment.
“You know, coming to Kenyon, people talk about the Kenyon community and how it’s not just professors and students, but is bigger than that, and babysitting definitely made me feel more connected,” Ruymann said.
Students who babysit at Kenyon develop a more personal relationship with someone who would otherwise only be a figure of authority, Schulwolf and Ruymann said. Babysitting gives students insight into professors’ lives, while professors place their trust in students and rely on them. Schulwolf encouraged everyone to try it.
Schulwolf has found that it’s nice to have a more personal connection.
“[Dennen’s] very engaged in my life and is very interested in knowing about my roommate situation and my friend situation, and I think it’s really nice to have a home kind of connection when you’re on campus,” Schulwolf said.
Ruymann agreed babysitting provided her an opportunity to get to better know adults in ways she might not have been able to before within the Kenyon bubble.
“I don’t really know [Misarti] at all because I don’t play a sport or anything, but I see him around and he’s like, ‘Oh, how are you,’ so it’s nice. I know some friends who babysit for their advisors’ kids and I feel like that even more so is a nice connection to have,” Ruymann said.
Beyond a connection with a professor, taking a break from campus life and playing with kids proves a welcome change of pace for students from the everyday academic grind.
“We played with My Little Ponies a lot. I think I’ve never watched so much My Little Pony. I didn’t know My Little Pony existed, practically. There are DVDs and shows. I remember we watched the same 20-minute episode 10 times,” Ruymann said. “I had the My Little Pony theme song memorized by the end of last year; it was really embarrassing.”
Both Schulwolf and Ruymann think babysitting breaks the routine of life at Kenyon and provides another aspect of life that’s lacking: play time.
“When you’re on campus you get so caught up in the rush of your day, and then it’s nice to go back to someone’s house,” Schulwolf said.
Ruymann agreed that babysitting helped provide her a place to engage in community outside of the college bubble.
“Babysitting was really nice because it was a change of pace. It wasn’t school, it wasn’t extracurriculars, it wasn’t Kenyon people; it was getting off campus. It’s fun to spend time with an age group so different from the 18-22 year-old range,” Ruymann said.
“If you know a professor who has kids, there’s no harm in reaching out to them, because I’m sure teachers always need help,” Schulwolf said. “If you’re approached to be a babysitter, it’s definitely worth it.”