Saturday, May 14, 2005

Speaking of Teachers

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  It is the rule of the universe.

I found it interesting that John Scalzi selected memorable teachers for the subject of this weekend assignment.  Why?  Because the day before John posted that assignment I was just telling someone about a professor I briefly had in college.  And I use the term 'briefly' with precise intent.

It was August, 1995...the first day of the fall semester at Lewis-Clark State College and most of the student body are still walking around in a state of shock, having just been robbed of all monetary resources while taking their ritualized stroll through the college bookstore.  And they say monopolies are against the law....Ha!   The energy and excitement of the new semester fills the air and it is so thick you can cut it with a knife.  I always loved the very first day of school...yeah, I know I'm weird, but it is the truth.

As I make my way toward my 'Foundations of Management Theory' class, in my mind I'm rehearsing a speech I want to give at the beginning of the class.  I am a member of the Business Students' Organization (BSO), and I am also the President this term and we have just kicked off a new member recruitment campaign.  Naturally as the leader I'm the one who, through example, must demonstrate to the entire class the art of public speaking by way of a recruitment appeal.  And on this campus, public speaking is emphasized, everyday, in every class.  No exceptions.  BSO members have all agreed to make an appeal at the beginning of all of their classes, and I know this class will be packed with current and potential members, as it is being held in the largest classroom on campus.  It is located in the Library building, in the Information Technology wing and seats over 120 students.  Let's not forget that it is also being televised to a satellite classroom in another city 100 miles away. 

So, I'm really psyching myself up for this, you know.

I walk in and the room is mass confusion.  Students are standing everywhere, talking and milling around the 'auditorium.'  A quick glance at the clock on the wall tells me I have about seven minutes to find the professor (who is new, by the way), and seek permission to quickly address the class for about one minute.  One minute of time, that's all I need.  The professor is easy to find.  He's the tall, lean middle-aged guy with short, dark hair wearing a dress shirt tucked into polyester slacks neatly pressed into two crisp pleats down the front capped off with a smart black leather belt.  He is standing at the front of the class and totally surrounded by students who have changed their fickle minds about taking this class and are begging for his signature on their cherished little "drop" slip so they can meet their friends back at the dorm for a beer.

I patiently wait my turn as the minutes tick off.  Finally ten minutes later, the herd disperses and I approach him, introduce myself, and politely ask if I may address the class.  He gives me a look of complete disgust and utters, "No.  This is my class.  Do it on your own time."

"I just need one minute, for the Business Students' Organiza--"

"And I said, no!  Now take your seat, and stop wasting my time," he snaps.

:::Blink...blink...blink:::  "Okay."

Stunned, I turn and walk away as he launches into his introductory preample.  That's my cue to quickly park my butt.  The only available seats that are easily accessible without further disrupting his class are clear in the back row.  In that row I spot a couple of BSO members, both with puzzled looks on their face and I make a rapid bee line to join them.

I take a seat next to Sylvia, a middle-aged mother of three who is married to a local dentist.  Immediately she asks, "What happened up there?"

I quietlytell her.  She shakes her head in mild disbelief and we turn our attention to the professor.  Even before his syllubus found its way to my hands, I know his teaching philosphy.  In no time at all I have concluded this guy is a task master who takes the responsibility of education very seriously.  Which is good, mind you, but I am at a loss as to how this guy ever got selected to teach at this college.  His approach is light years removed from that of all the other profs...and the college's philosphy, for that matter.

Halfway through his lecture, he turns on an overhead projector and places a transparency on the glass.  From our distant seats in the back, Sylvia and I can't quite read his tiny writing and someone up front has coughed several times during the professor's discourse.  We are about to miss some very important points and we are scrambling to copy his words, since he didn't include these in the lesson handouts.  Before we can finish, he changes transparencies.  Sylvia raises her hand.  Minutes later, even after glancing our way several times, the professor finally acknowledges Sylvia and points to her. 

"I'm sorry," she says.  "But could you please put the last transparency back?  I didn't quite get the last bullet point copied."

Seconds of silence pass as he stands, staring at her.  The amassed students wait.  I hold my breath.  He places his left hand on his hip and says, "Then perhaps you should go back home and finish your load of laundry if you can't keep up with the pace of this class."

"Excuse me?" Sylvia retorts.

I don't remember how long it took before I was able to breathe again.  But the shockwaves of his statement knocked most of us out.  From that moment on, his true nature came out, and let me tell you, it was ugly.  I honestly believe this guy hated women, because he made several other comments, which I don't recall because I was still in a state of shock from his first, and second.  By the end of the class, I knew what my next step would be.  Drop this guy like a hot potato andfind another way to take this course.

No wonder there were so many students wanting his signature on a drop slip.  LCSC is a small campus and word of mouth spreads quickly.  This was an evening class.  Clearly his reputation preceeded him from the morning and afternoon sessions.

First thing next morning, I went to the Business Division.  The Division Chair was already well aware of the comments and the situation, as I was the fifth student that morning, and it was only 8:10 a.m..  I was the twelth student in two days.  Wildfire.  I asked the Chair how in the world this guy ever got hired.  He looked great on paper, I was told, and he interviewed well.

The next class session was bittersweet for me.  Sweet because I pranced into that room armed with my drop slip in hand and a huge smile on my face...relishing the thought of a nice cold celebratory beer waiting for me at home.  Bitter because I was about to miss out on a huge student input process.  Toward the end of each semester, every student evaluates their current instructors.  And boy, this was one evaluation I really could have sunk my incisors into.  But, truth be told, I already knew his future.

By the end of the fall semester, his 6 month contract was not picked up.

Justice may not always be swift, but sooner or later it is served.

Sylvia is now the Executive Director at the local YWCA.

No body knows what became of the professor.


labdancer51 said...

Hmmm.....They do say what goes around comes around!  How did that man ever get a position like that?  Why ever would someone like that want to teach!  Have a lovely weekend. :-)  Sandra xxx

childebrand1968 said...

I had one just like him, but female....

She crooned and fawned over the guys in my class, and would basically not acknowledge any other female in the room.  I asked her a question once, and she told me if I wasn't intelligent to already know the answer, I shouldn't be there!

Needless to say, I stayed after class and exchanged some words with her about her attitiude~I totally felt like I was a parent disciplining her smart-mouthed child.

Then I went to talk to my classmates about what she said, because she did the same to them.  Even the guys came to the office with us~the whole class~ to complain about her.

As with you, word spread and soon students from most her other classes were following our lead....  She was fired, after several tape recordings of her rants were turned in.  It was justice served.

The good side of it was her replacement~he is one of the best profs I've had and I still go see him :)


delela1 said...

Sandra - there is a whole lot of truth to that saying.  It's one of my core values.  Hope your weekend is/was lovely as well.  :)

Cat - You know, I can just see you, going toe to toe with her.  And I am glad to hear you took a stand as well.  Talk about abusing her position.