Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sticks and stones

Ok, while we're talking about things that I hate, let me just bring this up. One of my profs last week called us all 'dummies,' and not in a funny, jokey kind of way, but in an aggressive, 'What do the rest of you dummies think' kind of way.

SO not appropriate.

And the reason he called us all 'dummies' was because no one was participating in the discussion, which was totally true, but also totally his fault. Some classes are chatty on their own and all you have to do is throw out a topic and they'll jump on it like hounds on steak. But some classes need to be encouraged to chat, and this guy actively discourages class participation.

I have this other totally amazing prof who kind of looks like a less-rough-living Janitor from Scrubs (sorry, Tim, but you totally do), who will toss out questions and ideas and then say things like 'I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on this,' and then when you offer up your thoughts, he'll say things like 'Yes, yes I'm very moved by that' or 'Yes, I think that statement is very helpful,' both of which mean 'You haven't spoken my thoughts verbatim, but thanks for your input and keep trying.' EVERYONE talks in this class. Talking is positively reinforced.

My 'dummies' prof will also toss out questions, but with that tone - you know when you're trying to lead someone down a very obvious path of reasoning, like 'Ok, how many hands do you have? And how many bowling balls can you carry in each hand? So how many bowling balls can you carry?' - that's the tone, all the time, like the answer is right in front of us, only his questions will be so vague and so abstract that there's NO way you could know what he wants to hear. And there's no point in trying, because if your answer isn't his thoughts verbatim he'll shut you down flat. You'll be like, 'Is it...A?' And he'll turn to the class so they and he can share in your idiocy, and say 'Well, it's B, isn't it?' Like, come on guys, how did you not get this? Only this is ENGLISH, not science. There are right-ish answers and wrong-ish answers, but most answers fall somewhere in the middle.

Ok, so in a class full of people who like to hear their own voices anyways, this might not make much of a dent, but my class is full of shy, rabbity people, and for most of them, they don't even need to be shut down personally. They can see someone else being put in their place (usually me, because I just can't take the silence and the gaping stare of disbelief that no one is offering their opinion so that it can be pummelled, and also because I like to hear my own voice), and solemnly vow never to open their own mouths.

Because you're damned if you do, and dummies if you don't.

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