And I consider that a win. This week, at least.
(No "Professor Facepalm" logo this time, folks - this is not a humorous entry.)
On Tuesday, I lost my patience with my class when I discovered that no one - no one - had done the reading. I lost my patience, and I cursed at them.
I curse in class a lot. But this time I cursed at them. I regretted it the moment I did it. I think there's a world of difference between saying something that might offend my students and saying something offensive directed at my students. I think the latter is unacceptable.
And - hoo boy - so did some of them.
Leaving aside the fact that it prompted three other students to complain to my Dean (not even my Chair, my Dean!) that I curse in class a lot (I checked with a lawyer and the AAUP, and even though my Dean said "no more cussing," I feel confident on that point), it got a particular reaction from one student.
An ex-Army Ranger student.
You guessed it - he jumped out of his chair, wigged out, threatened me, refused to leave when asked, and then dared me to call security.
Oh, wait! No! NOT USUAL AT ALL.
I kept it together pretty well, I think. I was calm in the face of it, and he did leave when I actually picked up the phone to call campus police. I went straightaway to the Dean to file a complaint, and things were handled with relative alacrity by the higher-ups, so that by the time I went to teach today, there had already been a meeting between me and the student where we both apologized for speaking in the heat of the moment. That was nice. He's a good kid and I like him and I was happy to get some rapprochement with him.
But the weirdest part of all this for me?
Realizing that I wasn't all that concerned with what the administration would do to me, or whether there'd be more complaints about my teaching style, or even whether this kid was going to beat my ass.
I was mostly worried that I'd lost 'em. That they'd be tuned out. That this regrettable incident is what they'd take away from the class.
Fucked up, huh? Or maybe a reason for hope. I always have trouble telling those two apart.
But, in any case, when I came back today, I delivered a mea culpa to the class, consisting of basically what I said before the cut, and the kid who flipped his lid also apologized, and then my cowardly-assed Dean mentioned how cursing at the class was unacceptable and, oh yeah, so is threatening your teacher. But then the Dean left and I had to get back to teaching and I ventured, dry as I could, "I won't ask who's done the reading."
And you know what happened?
One kid in the back shot back, "I'm pretty sure everyone did it!"
Laughter. From the whole room.
It felt good.
I've still got 'em. For another few weeks, at least. I've still got 'em.
It's not all misery.