Monday, June 28, 2010

Scrambled eggs

My department nick-names the speshullest of the speshul snowflakes we encounter after breakfast foods, so we can have vague bitch-sessions about problems without having to shout names from rooftops. (i.e. "What's got you down?" "Pancake fell asleep AGAIN.")

Well, Scrambled Eggs has been driving me BONKERS all semester, so here's an old school smackdown.

She hums to herself in the middle of lecture. She forgot her calculator one day, so when everyone else was working on problems, she tore up paper into tiny bits and stuck them in the brim of her enormous straw hat. Did I mention she was sitting in front of a computer the entire time? A computer that had a calculator on it? She sketches pictures -- of ME -- while everyone else is taking notes. And last week -- right before the midterm -- she informed me that she's been unable to understand any of the comments I've made on her homeworks because she "can't read cursive." (I provide typed versions of my answer sheets in addition, but that little nugget just made my jaw drop.)

The one saving grace for Scrambled Eggs is her cheeriness. She chirps out "Thank you" every time I hand out a paper, and every time we're done for the day. She doesn't complain when I ask her to re-do her homeworks -- for good reason, as they are meandering, messy, and often completely wrong. And she actually buckles down and re-does them, and makes them slightly better. She gleefully shouts out wrong answers without thinking, but then apologizes profusely for getting them wrong. And even though she makes me seriously shake my head, I can buy that's just the way she is, and that her endless quirks aren't all some sort of elaborate attention-getting device. And frankly, although she tends to pull focus and rattle me, she does add a bit of color and it's never distracting to the point where other students are complaining (at least not to me).

So what are other people's experiences with the genuinely weird? Those snowflakes that aren't factory standard? I'm sure y'all have one or two breakfast foods that have made your lives more interesting...


  1. I had a wonderful one a few years ago. She came to me at the beginning of class to explain that she would be sketching throughout the lectures because "it helped her concentrate". She was a good artist and it was rather a pleasure, as I lectured, to watch quite marvellous sketches appear, upside down from my perspective, in her sketchbook in the first row. She never missed a day, she was always on time, she handed in her assignments, and her answers were - well, loopy, to be kind. Loosely tethered in reality. I could see how she got there but her perspective was not like our Earth perspective ...

    Still, she brightened the class, she wasn't distressed by her mediocre grades, and I often wonder how she's doing out there in the real world.

  2. Let's see: Cheerios, Special K, Nuts 'n' Honey, Fruit Loops, Apple Jack, Breakfast of Champions, Quake, Quisp, Kippers, Grits, Eggs Benedict, Cream of Wheat, Mush, English Muffins, and of course Frankenberry... There's lots of potential here. Thanks for the idea! ;-)

    The only problem I have with it is that I'm in a physics department. All my students are non-standard issue: these people make computer scientists look normal.

  3. I had a student (who kept taking my classes) who would wear a wide-brimmed hat that wouldn't have been out of place on a 17th century Quaker. He also liked to unbutton his shirts and show off his pigeon chest. Since he was an accomplished classical pianist and generally attentive I was willing to let him fly his freak flag high. Holy fools are much less annoying than genuine snowflakes.

  4. "Holy fool" describes my artist exactly. I hope the world is treating her kindly.

  5. The one time a student started sketching a picture of me during class, I just leaned forward mid-lecture and asked, mock-incredulously: "Is that a picture of ME?"

    Horrified and eyes wide, she slid the paper off of her desk and into her lap, slow-motion.

    Honestly, I think some of them just think that we are like television sets--unable to see them, even though they are, oh, sitting in the front row five feet away.

  6. Snarky, dig up Conrad Kottak's book "Prime-time Society: An Anthropological Analysis of Television and Culture."

    In the 1st chapter he discusses a phenomenon he had been observing in the 80s of students who treated him and the classroom as if they were at home in their living room in front of the TV. They'd get up and leave, wander around the room, bring a big meal, etc. He called it "televiewing" because he surmised students were treating him like a TV set!

    To the best of my knowledge he never really followed this hypothesis up in either the book or later work. But ain't it funny how so many of us are left with same impression? We're just up in front of the room and should perform as if they weren't there! No wonder they want to be entertained. They can't comprehend we're not a TV set!

    Oh, and be careful about heckling them! They might say we're MEAN or rude or something and then we get called into the principle's office and get reprimanded. Wait...that's somehow backwards.

  7. Yes! I have a standard 'hey, I'm not on TV' spiel I deliver early in the semester that addresses this very issue. I ain't a bunch of swirling phosphor dots, I'm not on a screen, I'm actually standing here in front of you - and if you can hear and see me, then I CAN DAMN WELL HEAR AND SEE YOU TOO. You're only eight feet away, for chrissake.


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