The Secret Life of the American Teacher: an inside look into three New College professor's pastimes

photos courtesy of Carl Shaw and Sara Mineo/Catalyst

Breakdancing, ping-pong, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are not normally the activities one would imagine a college professor partaking in. Usually, students are only exposed to the acedemic side of their professors but instructors Carl Shaw, Patrick McDonald and Aron Edidin incorporate their passions into their day-to-day lives here at New College.

Carl Shaw, Professor of Greek Language & Literature has been breakdancing, or b- boying, for almost four years. Breakdancing originated in the South Bronx in the 1970s as a form of streetdance that took place during the ‘breaks’ of songs. It was and still is a huge component of hip-hop culture. Shaw started breakdancing during a tutorial that was given here at New College.

“Breakdancing started to become popular when I was about eight years old. I was an out of shape, overweight little kid and the kids in my elementary school used to bring cardboard to school and breakdance at recess and I would just look on, longingly, wishing that I could be involved and that I could be a little more than just an outsider… so when I heard about the tutorial I decided to just go.”

Shaw soon worked his way up from having “no rhythm” to teaching his own breakdancetutorial in the aerobics room every Monday at 4 PM. He even has a b-boying room in his home that contains mirrors and a linoleum floor so he could continue practicing on his own.

“Breakdancing is very difficult. It takes months and months to figure out one [move],” Shaw stated of the activity. “I mean I’ve been working on my Windmill for a couple years now and I can still only kind of do it.” Though despite these difficulties Shaw has no doubt that he will continue to breakdance until he is physically unable to do it anymore.

Mathematics professor, Patrick McDonald has been freestyle wrestling for 35 years and has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) fighter for ten years. His first experience with BJJ was at New College’s own Fitness Center.

“I saw these guys dressed up in their little outfits in the aerobics room,”McDonald reminisced, “I watched them for a little bit until the instructor asked me to come in and fight one of the smaller guys. ‘No rules,’ he said… We started fighting and at first I took him down but the next thing I knew I was face down on the mat….Turns out that the guy was a National Wrestling Champion”

BJJ has become a regular part of McDonald’s everyday life; he trains two hours a day, six days a week.

“The truth is, I’m completely addicted to it,” he stated of his daily regime, “If I skip a couple of days, it effects my entire life.”

For McDonald, BJJ does not just help to relieve stress and strengthen self defense techniques.

“[BJJ] teaches you fundamental skills that you have to have, that you have to sharpen or your screwed…” he replied when asked if BJJ has contributed to any other aspects of his life. “In a real combat situation you can really go full speed. Things get broken. It turns out that you don’t

really understand what you really are until you put yourself in that situation.” Professor of Philosophy and ping-pong enthusiast Aron Edidin has been playing ping-

pong since the ‘70s. He began playing here at New College in Hamilton “Ham” Center and has been ever since. In 1971, the U.S. table tennis team was invited to visit China to renew relations with the United States, relations that had been severed for over 20 years.

“I first became interested in ping-pong when the American ping-pong team began diplomatic contact with China,” Edidin responded of his initial attraction to the game. “It put ping-pong in people’s minds as something more than a game played in someone’s garage.”

Edidin “suits up” twice a week for a friendly game of ping-pong in Ham. He plays with students and anyone else who is eager to play.

“It’s always fun to play from week to week,” he explained. “I’m still learning and I’m at a point where what I’m gaining is greater than what I lose to age.”

In the last few years, Edidin has taken up another hobby. “Some years ago a student told me I should learn to juggle. So I did. Now I can toss juggle and contact juggle.”

Toss juggling is the traditional method of juggling that involves tossing multiple items from one hand to the other, whereas in contact juggling the entire body is used to juggle the items.

“I’d rather not choose between the two,” Edidin stated when asked which pastime he preferred, “But the nice thing about ping-pong is that it is something you can do with another person.”

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