Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vic Wants to Vent. A Speedy Rant About Wind.

Thank God your page exists.

I'm in my second year of teaching. The first year was a blur. I have no idea if I did anything right or wrong. I can't remember what the students were like. I was in a fog the first two semesters just trying to keep my shit together.

But now, solidly in place halfway through this semester, I'm starting to recognize that I'm teaching children, 18-20 year old children who have no attention spans - look, a bug flew by - and who act like 5 year olds.

In the middle of a student's reading of a heartbreaking poem about suicide today, Dick in the back row actually farted. Not, a small whisper of flatulence, but a raise-the-cheek fart.

A kid two seats over said, "Hey, that's the Caf's burrito working, man!" And the whole class laughed, including the poor sap I'd tapped to read the poem.

I felt my face go red, and beads of sweat popped out on my forehead. I could only think of one thing to say, and I didn't say it gracefully, "Why can't you just BEHAVE?"

And it was quiet for a second and then some titters. It was close to the end of class. I grabbed my book and my jacket and headed for the door.

"Be here Friday," I said.


  1. I am so sick of students this year. And I have too many years to retirement. But I have a moment at least once every couple of weeks when all I want to do is walk out the building.

  2. My students are also distracted by all things that walk or flutter by the window.

  3. Welcome to the world of professional babysitting.

    This is another example of how completely self-centered they are. Walking in and out during presentations, asking to have their schedules and needs accommodated, being insensitive to what's going on in class,etc., just used to make me crazy. But I've taken a Zen approach to attempt to basically not have it affect me as much as it used to. This year my mantra is: "this isn't about me!" I have now implemented a "participation/cooperation" element in my grade that is solely for these kinds of behaviors. When students ask why they were docked, I mention their behavior, and they turn red and leave.

    A grasshopper flew into my class last week. You'd have thought we were being attacked by Godzilla. I flung it back out the open window. (Yes, it's supposed to be Fall here on the West Coast, but it's not!) Students complained about being "traumatized." I rolled my eyes at them and continued my lesson.

  4. That sure sounds familiar. Unfortunately, when I expected my students to behave like adults and future professionals, I often got into trouble with my superiors because I didn't meet their "needs and expectations".

    1. What happened to the students meeting the prof's expectations? Sorry. Rhetorical question.

  5. What's really terrifying is that, in the eyes of the law, they're considered adults. And they can breed and make copies of themselves, only less educated and less mature. Ever see the 2005 film, "Idiocracy?" We need not wait 500 years, as in the film: idiocracy is upon us now.

  6. Vic, it's okay that you snapped. Once. The Little Dears have learned that they crossed a line. Also, the first-year fog lasted three years for me, so you're ahead of the curve.

    In the 15 years since, I've adopted two approaches:

    1. Explicitly state expectations in class before student presentations, and include them in the syllabus as CC does (above). "Golden Rule time. I expect you to pay full attention." If someone ever talks over another student, I immediately call them on it: "Barney. Courtesy."

    2. Since they often act like six-year-olds, cultivate the Withering Look that good parents use to keep the kids in line at a restaurant table. Use it early and often, starting the first day of class. I find it most effective when coupled with a small dose of absurd humor and memorization of student names. "Kelso. Don't make me stop this car."

    If only I could threaten them with Frod's stapler.

  7. RT: Not a small whisper of flatulence, but a raise-the-cheek fart. Please keep writing for CM!

    Also: Look, a bug flew by. Yes, yes, yes. Some recent examples:

    In lab, I have just given some simple directions. Annie Adderall raises her hand to ask what the directions are as if I have not mentioned them at all. Look, a falling leaf!

    I am in the middle of giving directions about how lab partners could divide the labor. Ronnie Ritalin asks, "Are we doing this with partners?" Look, a squirrel!

    At an office hour, Freddie Focalin asks for an explanation of a concept. I start to draw a diagram, and Freddie interrupts with an unrelated question. Look, a paper clip!

    At another office hour, Elsie Effexor asks for feedback, and I point out that certain directions have not been followed. As I provide the correct approach, Elsie keeps interrupting me to explain why she did it the wrong way. Look, a snowflake!

  8. My current buzz-word to my high-school students this year is "focus." Usually accompanied by one of my hand-gestures, this one a set of parallel arms moving from their heads to their desk.

  9. I have 98 more days until retirement. Sorry new people, but it's just going to get worse...

  10. Not just cheeky, but raise-the-cheeky.


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