Saturday, June 20, 2009

Things About Teaching I Hate

Years ago, politicians in my state decided to start a bad football team. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, they accidentally attached a small university to this team. That’s where I work. I teach history.

Teaching is a lot like singing on the edge of a cliff. You waste a lot of air throwing it out there, you are never really sure that anyone is listening. Still, I love my job. I truly love my job. I am paid by the government to read books and tell stories. This is all done indoors in air conditioned rooms, and there is no heavy lifting. I’d have to be crazy not to love this job.

Still, there are things about this job that are occasionally annoying. Let me list a few.

Students. I like my students, 99% are really good, but I want to talk about the other 1%. I have a few complaints.

At least once a month, someone comes up to me and asks, “I wasn’t here last Thursday. Did I miss anything important?”

Here are a few of the responses I have thought up over the years:

“Thursday was the day I exposed myself and sang the Star Spangled Banner in Swahili. That will be on the test, better get notes from someone else.”

“Oh, heavens no! We all noticed you were missing and decided to wait until you were here.”

“Nope. You didn’t miss a damn thing. Most days I just come in here and make shit up anyway.”

Second most annoying question. “Will that be on the test?” This means two things. First, the student didn’t understand a word I said. After all those weeks where I thought I was God’s special gift to education, it turns out that I was just some old fool mumbling at the front of the room. So, secondly, of course I’m going to put it on the damn test.

Equally frustrating are the students who wait until the semester is over and then demand to know why they got a failing grade in a course designed to be passable by a herd of drunken weasels. Someday, I will break and tell the truth, “Because you are stupid. Really, really stupid. Right now, this very second, you should go home and slap the shit out of your mother for collecting half of your DNA from the dead animal pit at the county dump.”

It would really feel good to say that, but instead I explain that a ten page research paper should not be three pages long or written on a Big Chief Tablet with a red crayon.

Cafeteria Food. There is an unwritten law that university food must be bad. Horribly bad. Most campuses lease out their kitchens to the same companies that provide food for airports and prisons. It is possible that university food is worse, since the prisoners would riot and the people at airports would just fly someplace that didn’t specialize in pork tartar.

The administration evidently doesn’t care about the quality of the food, mostly I suspect, because they never eat there. Evidently, students and faculty are just one more resource this state intends to strip mine.

The university actually offers a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. These people do not run the school cafeterias, but I imagine they talk about them a lot. And laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

High Schools. I didn’t particularly like high school when I was sentenced to one, it doesn’t appear that much has changed in the last 4 decades. My biggest complaint now is the quality of education at those schools. Specifically, the quality of the history teaching by certain high school teachers. I am sure there are good teachers out there, and I am equally sure that none of them are football coaches.

There seems to be a law that all coaches have to teach at least one class that does not focus on a ball of some kind. Coaches obviously don’t know math or science…what’s left? At one time, the coaches taught the health classes, but after the entire female student body got pregnant simultaneously they have been the history teachers. This explains why the average college freshman believes that World War II happened before World War I. Evidently, we are counting backwards and are just one more good war away from whirled peas.

Faculty Meetings. To be completely honest, I don’t go to many of these. For a variety of reasons, starting with the simple idea that the “c” should not really be in the word “faculty.” Never have so many talked so long about so little. And that’s about all it is; talk. No one listens; they just wait until it is their turn to talk.

I have this reoccurring dream where the entire department is crossing the desert to attend a distant meeting. We are all in a little yellow school bus, you remember; the kind some students rode while wearing a helmet even though they weren’t on the football team. Suddenly, the bus is forced way off the road because of a flat tire.

Years and years later, when they find our bleached bones still in the bus, our discoverers are mystified by how we died. While not a single lug nut has been removed from the flat tire, they can tell from the paperwork in the bus that before we perished, we came up with a mission statement and were working on devising a quality outcomes assessment test for tire rotation.

Let me repeat one last time, I love teaching. Any job, even the wonderful job I have could be improved. I’ll bring this up at a faculty meeting.

1 comment:

  1. I loved it! I am still smiling and it really made me miss your classes!