Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things They Don't Teach You Before You Become a Professor

I didn't expect to ever teach. Given that my undergrad major was one that had good job prospects (in other words I wasn't an English or Fine Arts major), I had no reason to expect to teach. The only reason I became a TA in grad school was to offset the cost of tuition (I was an international student; tuition for international students shocked me more than the toddler-sized bed in my dorm room). Had I known that immediately following graduate school, I would end up teaching, I would have paid a lot more attention to all things pedagogical.

That said, there are just some things I'm guessing no one ever considers mentioning in any program to anyone. Here is my list of "things they don't teach you before you become a professor." Feel free to add your own to this list.

10. You will be surprised how rage filled you will become if the professor before you leaves the white/chalkboard completely filled with his/her notes.

9. Same goes for if the professor keeps his/her class late and causes your own to start late.

8. The day you lose your voice or have a guest speaker is the day the grounds crew will be mowing and/or leaf blowing right outside your window, but only for the duration of your class. As soon as you excuse class to leave early, they will move on to find someone else who is attempting to do student presentations.

7. I've included this before, but it must be said again: Adding the begging, seemingly sincere student to an already-full class because he/she couldn't get his/her shit together to register ahead of time will become your single most regrettable moment of the year.

6. If there is an important key to be used for any important storage cabinet or room, the least logical person in the whole building is going to be the one in charge of it. In our building, that person is the professor emeritus who teaches special classes only on weekends. There will be no other copies of this key.

5. No tech equipment ever works like it should. You just have to learn which cord not to use and which remote never has batteries and which document camera will always flop down to point directly at your crotch when you turn it on.

4. If there is a clock in the room, it will not have the right time and will be positioned in such a way that only someone with an 80-foot ladder will be able to reach it.

3. If you plan to use PowerPoint or some other such program in class using your own equipment, your email will pop up with something embarrassing. Even if you have never watched porn in your life, that is the moment your equipment will choose to reveal to the class that you are a sick, sad pervert.

2. The least competent person in the department is going to be teamed up with you to co-teach or work on a committee together.

1. Anything you attempt to draw on the board (Anything!) is going to look like a penis.

22 comments :

  1. OMG. This is a Greatest Hits list.

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  2. Many years ago, I was startled by a fire drill that happened while I was giving a test. What a mindfuck. It completely caught me by surprise. One of my colleagues (not a fucktard) had "forgotten" to tell me there was going to be a fire drill. Not long after that, I asked one of my friends on the grounds crew to do #8 to the colleague, to teach him a lesson. For only a few minutes, but it was funny.

    I still breathe a sigh of relief when a fire drill does not interrupt a test I'm administering.

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    1. This is one pleasure I have never experienced. When I lived in the residence halls (as a student, not as a faculty member), we had fire drills all the time. We have never had a fire drill in a classroom building. I feel deprived.

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    2. Oh, we used to get 'em all the time during tests, back when I was a grad student and TA. It was common for students who weren't prepared for a test to get their friends to either pull the fire alarm, or else phone in a bomb threat to the building, while everyone was taking the test. Got to where the large lecture classes that I TA'd in had to be scattered to rooms in multiple buildings, so that at most only a few sections could be affected. And there was always someone who didn't get the message and came to the wrong room. . . it just introduced a new layer of cluster****ery into the educational process, but the alternative was to disrupt everyone's exam.

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    3. I've set off a few myself when performing chemistry demonstrations. Those pesky fire alarms are way too sensitive. I don't generate that much smoke.

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    4. Beaker Ben, cue tasteless pickup line: You're so smokin' hot, I bet you set off all the fire alarms!

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  3. I once attempted to illustrate triangular trade by drawing the Atlantic coasts of the continental US, Great Britain and Spain. Despite the presence of Florida, it looked far more like one dog sniffing another's butt. It was very, very hard to recover for the remainder of class.

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    1. I drew a diagram just a few weeks ago to illustrate the path of a tennis ball thrown straight up and caught at the same height. Looked like a penis with one testicle. And despite having taught for 10 years now, I didn't catch it until I was almost finished with the drawing and it was too late. All the engineering boys thought that was hilarious. And every spring, when I do e&m and charge a glass rod by rubbing, I always get a whole room full of giggles. I tell them straight out that I know exactly what it looks like to them and to please manage to control themselves. I can usually just laugh it off and get them back on track relatively quickly.

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    2. Wonderful! Having once drawn an unfortunately proportioned grain silo, I have a special appreciation for these. And for this.

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  4. Number 3 actually happened to me yesterday. It wasn't even my computer.

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  5. #7. #7 cannot be overemphasized. Not adding students who show recognizable signs of being chaos-producing is one of the few things that can make a semester go more smoothly, *and* over which a proffie has control.

    Also, the clock in #4 will be fast if you have a lot of type-A students who set their watches ahead and start wiggling 10 minutes before class is over, and slow if your class tends toward the lackadaisical (and -- #9 -- in the second situation your class will be followed by a professor whose watch is set fast, and who believes the entire passing time should be available to hir for setup. And who is also a stickler about #10 -- or the modern equivalent, remembering to close all files/programs on the instructor computer).

    As for #6, it used to be that one of the vital pieces of information one sussed out when arriving in a university town was which locksmith was willing to ignore the "do not duplicate" messages on university keys (the better to provide oneself with affordable spares, and duplicates of keys which were supposed to be signed out, but could never conveniently be signed out when you needed them). Sadly, there are few independent locksmiths, or even hardware stores with key-cutting services, left, and I wouldn't really expect a Lowes/Home Depot employee to risk hir job by violating corporate policy.

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    1. FWIW, I've managed to get keys made at Walmart where employees don't read the master key and just copy it at will.

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  6. Oh, #1. I try to avoid writing on the board more than necessary because my handwriting SUCKS. Students laugh out loud at it. My drawing? Even worse. At least when I try to draw the US it looks more like a cow than a penis. Or a cow with a penis, which might be worse.

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  7. They don't teach you that your job really isn't about teaching at all; your job is to keep everybody (students, colleagues, and adminiflakes alike) happy.

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  8. We were having the fire alarm problem at the school where I taught. I was a fire cop at the time and caught a student pulling the alarm just as I walked out of the men's room. When I asked him where the fire was, I got the "deer in the headlights" look.

    The look on the provost's face as I marched him out the front door was also priceless: gr

    The problem didn't recur on Tuesday or Thursday evenings that semester.

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    1. I've never contemplated pulling a fire alarm, but there are times when I wish I could schedule one.

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  9. Every time I try to draw a penis it ends up looking like Florida

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