Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oh captain, my captain.

Early last week, my seminar group were whinging at me. Well, whinging at me without really saying anything: they still sit around in silence avoiding my eye. Their shyness was slightly endearing at first. Now it's just tiresome.

Their gripe was over the fact that I'd scheduled the next week's seminar to be a 'mock' exam to give them a taste of what it was like trying to condense the solecistic waffle they expect me to mark into an hour's worth of rushed scrawling possessing at least a semblance of coherence. The problem with this was that they had an essay due in for another course that day, and therefore wouldn't, they intimated, be able to work on both.

"Well," I ventured, "seeing as you've got a whole week perhaps rather than leaving them both to the night before, you could try getting the work for one done before, and then..."
The frosty glares I was receiving made me stop in my tracks.
"No, of course not. How silly of me," I blustered, wilting in the face of their scandalised expressions.
They shifted in their seats. I took this to mean my backtracking had met with their approval.
"Okay," said I, "in that case then, we've got a seminar next week I've got nothing planned for. Any ideas? Preferences?"
The freshest cream of British academia collectively looked at their laps and shrugged.

A few days later I still hadn't thought of anything to do. But these seminars need some structure and plan: there is enough awkward silence to fill as it is. I considered setting them a reading, but supposed I'd left it a bit late. I considered constructing a multiple choice quizz, but... but couldn't be arsed.

So I penned the buggers an email. It went thus.

Hi Everyone,

Following your resoundingly unenthusiastic group response
to my question as to what you'd like to do for Monday's
seminar, I have come up with 3 options for you.

1) I do a presentation about some of my unbelievably
exciting recreational drugs research for your enjoyment.
2) We go to a pub for a few early drinks and hearty
academic debate.
3) You have the time to yourselves. So long as you are
working on that essay of course...

Mull away and get back to me with your personal favourite
and I'll announce a winner. Voting closes Saturday at midday.



Moments after I'd sent it, I became racked with embarrassed anguish. Was I becoming that member of staff? The one who goes down the pub with his students just to show how unstuffy and 'down' with the kids he is. God, I'd be swearing in front of them and smoking with them on the departmental steps next. It's a good thing they already call me by my first name, otherwise I'd be probably trying to get them onto that too.
"Do not become John Keating," I sternly instructed myself.

After a while I calmed myself.
"Nah," I reasoned, "I won't come across as desperate or anything. I'm sure they'd appreciate an Official Hour In The Pub as much as I would."

The emails began to arrive.

Fucking unsociable swotty bastards! They nearly all want me to do a presentation! A presentation over drinking beer or gobbing off in the common room. A presentation for Monday I haven't made yet, I might add. I've been sat looking at PowerPoint for a little while now, cursing their combination of workshyness and lack of love for midday drinking. Mainly I'm being distracted by this animation of a factory dedicated to creating and destroying little blue bouncey balls. Go on, select a ball and track its course. It's a blast.

Christ, I'm bored.


Mary said...

It takes a rare person to have the patience to teach. I know this from listening to a friend of mine complain about his classes. :)

I would have opted for the pub myself, you have odd students.

And my cat was not amused by the blue ball factory...which made it more amusing for me, of course.

Chris said...

Why not bring the pub into the classroom?

On the last day of classes in one of my religion classes, our professor let us bring "adult drinks." So while we learned about how early Christian mystics were representative of the whole Middle Ages, many, if not all, of us were more importantly gulping down all the cold ones and wine we could snatch.

josephknecht said...

Your students are weird.

As punishment for there bizarre anti-social ways, don't do the presentation: turn up with a bottle of Goldschlager, give a perfectly normal seminar, and get blind drunk while doing so. Don't share the booze. That'll learn 'em.

Though it might earn you a reputation as a totally different kind of 'that teacher'.

Ivy the Goober said...

Next time you're bored try this:

Jona said...

Hmmm, I'm a little surprised at their choice too - makes me think you must be a great tutor they enjoy listening to :o)

The ball thing is rather engrossing too!

Dancinfairy said...

That ball thing has been wasting away my productive hours at work this week. I think your students are insane.

Ken said...

oh dear, more silent students. I can relate, I had a nightmare monday class, which, well, made my mondays a nightmare. They wouldnt say a word the buggers. But I feel you might have a particularly special bunch here! no trip down the pub, and they call themselves students?
I'll shut up, I can feel a rant coming on!

Shane [] said I might like to pay you a visit, so here I am a'visiting.

Huw said...

Cripes! Ken! A blogosphere celebrity!!!


Tammy said...

I would be interested on knowing about your research on recreational drug use too. I need to get as much information about today's drugs of choice to arm myself for the talk I will have with my son in about 7 yrs. Me being an 'older' student, I would opt for the presentation verses the pub, unless, of course, I thought the instructor was HOT. Are you 'hot' Huw? LOL Keep in mind that I'm hopped up on cold medication so I know not what I type.

Huw said...

Evidently not hot enough for my students to want to get a few drinks down me and have a crack.

y-vonne said...

But you caved to the wills of the mighty. I'd a made them do the mock test. Throw around some power while you have it. My profs all did.

Me Over Here said...

If I was your student, I wouldn't be completely opposed to getting your ferschnickered and taking advantage of you...

...that is, IF I was your student.

mona said...

All this was done by email? Unless the responses were done using "reply all" you can pretend that the majority voted to go to the pub. If they complain well give them a mock test to how did you call them "Fucking unsociable swotty bastards"
good luck

The Swan said...

Maybe they didnt not want to go to the pub, they just didnt want to be seen with a washed up has been eternal student like you?

Where can I get a copy of that blue bouncey ball tuneage? Its an epic piece of musicianship.

Curly said...

That feeling that you get when you've just sent an e-mail but weren't entirely sure that you said the right thing, is priceless.

Cleavers said...

they call themselves students? That's a poor excuse for a student if ever I saw one. Even if you were an old, brown tweed jacket wearing, pipe smoking kind of prof - which I don't believe you are - you are offering a) an excuse to not be in the classroom and b) a chance to drink. Any student worth their salt would take that up.

You are clearly not setting a good enough example. Shame on you.