Mamacita says: I think, sometimes anyway, that it’s when my students get into hot and heavy “discussions” – most of which I jump into as well, that I like my job the best. The public school discouraged discussion; there were too many things to drill and practice before the almighty ISTEP, and besides, there was always the risk of a student wanting to discuss something improper, or possibly dropping the bomb of information that had to be reported, or something mentioned that was repeated/reported inaccurately at home that night, infuriating parents and resulting in a stink. (I was called on the carpet once for telling my students we would be talking about “homonyms” the next day. You can imagine what the kids said at home that night, and the PRINCIPAL didn’t know what homonyms were, either. ) (Ditto when “condiment” was on the spelling list.) (I swear – and I often do – people can be soooooo stupid.)
But at the college level, anything goes, or should, anyway. Our textbooks are set up to encourage discussion, and they encourage it in many different ways. It’s the first time in my career that I’ve LOVED a textbook.
I tried to love that 8th grade Prentice Hall literature book, and I would have if not for the censorship abridgements, and shoddy editing. Oh, and the ignorant person at Prentice Hall who, when I called to complain about all the censorship, assured me that they had full permission from each author.
“You had full permission from Anne Frank herself? SHE said it was all right to edit all that stuff out of her story?”
“Yes, ma’am, we did. I talked to her myself, and she said to do whatever we needed to do to make her story fit into our book.”
“Wow, that’s impressive. And did you really get to talk to Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, too?”
“Yes, ma’am, our editors called all of the authors and got permission to edit their stories.”
“I’m flabbergasted. Prentice-Hall certainly is privileged to have direct communication with all those prominent authors.”
“Well, ma’am, Prentice-Hall tries to include as many excellent and diverse authors as we can, in our textbooks.”
“You do realize these people have been dead for many years?”
Click. And in a few days, I got a big box of free books from Prentice-Hall.
So anyway. <—NO “S” on this word!
For the first time in the past six years, I had a student in one of my college classes who not only did not want to discuss anything: she did not want anybody else to, either. This morning, when our book (and I) gently led the students into a discussion about the importance of literacy, she called out, loudly, “MOVING RIGHT ALONG, let’s get on with the lesson.” A student looked at her in amazement and said, “What do you mean?”
“We’re not going to come to any one agreement with this topic, so it’s useless to discuss it. I want to get on with the actual book lesson.”
Another student spoke up: “It says right here in the syllabus that part of our grade in this class is based on discussion.”
When I finally felt as though I could speak without either cussing or weeping, I managed to say, “There will be many discussions in this class, and most of them will not come to any one agreement. The important thing is to get our ideas and opinions OUT THERE, so we can learn from each other.”
“I’m here to learn from the textbook. I’m not interested in what other students have to say, and I don’t like discussions about topics that I feel strongly about.”
To which I lost it and actually heard myself saying, “Then Missy, you are definitely in the wrong place.”
And I dismissed them. She was the first one out of the room. Everybody else stayed and assured me that they liked the discussions and I wasn’t to feel badly about one person’s opinion. Suddenly, our roles were reversed, and I needed to hear them say that.
I’m not sure why I reacted so emotionally – I’ve had strange students before, and rude students, and even hateful students, but this woman’s words really bothered me. Maybe I’m just menopausal, or possibly pregnant. (Alert the Guinness Book of World Records, somebody!) (Or maybe I just need a glass of Guiness.)
But it was a really good discussion until she brought it to a full stop and left us all sitting there with our bottom lips in our laps.
Will I change the format of the class to suit her personal requirements?
She was also angry because I handed her a sheaf of papers and said, “Please start these papers around the tables; just take one and pass the rest along.” Her gripe? I didn’t use her name. I should have said, “Bitchie Lou, please start these papers around the tables; just take one and pass the rest along.”
“It would have made a world of difference,” she said.
Stinky smelly scheisse-kabobs.
Besides, it was only the second day of class, and I don’t know anybody’s name yet. Wait, that’s not quite true. I know her name now. But I’m not going to use it.
I’m going to call her Bitchie Lou. In my head, that is. I would never call her that to her face. She obviously has NO sense of humor, and would just be offended. To her face, I’m going to call her Bulstrode. But in my head?
Bitchie Lou. Heh. I feel better now.
Oh, and this post’s title? That’s the mature and educated phrase clause that kept going through my head, all the while we were all staring at her, open-mouthed and drooling. I didn’t say it out loud, though.
Thankfully, I had THAT much control.
I have six classes this semester, and all of them are lovely. One person isn’t going to ruin that for me, or for the others in her class. Besides, with over eighty essays to grade each week, who has time to obsess over Bitchie Lou?
I’ve been thinking about weighing the discussion points more heavily. What do you think?