roasting marshmellows in phd hell

When Teaching Becomes Tap Dancing

with 4 comments

The semester is going ok so far.  It’s funny how you can suss out what a class will be like in the first few minutes of the first day.  One group is great- a good portion of the class participates and has interesting things to say, and most of the rest look like they’re paying attention.  The other group has a few good students too, but a larger proportion of em are trying to sneakily text or sleep behind hats/sunglasses/political novelty masks.

We have been looking at some pretty fucking interesting texts.  Of course, this is a subjective categorization.  I recognize that much of what we are looking at, at first glance, appears almost archaic to these 18-21 year olds.  And I feel like my job is to show them that this stuff written twentington million years ago is basically the same shit they are talking about in the hallways, texing their inane friends about, thinking, feeling etc.  Love, death, life, the human condition.  And when they get it and are interested and energized, teaching feels like the best job in the world.

But in that ‘bad’ class, I feel like a sell out.

I feel like charlie in that

can I get an AMEN for shakespeare?

episode of ‘its always sunny in philadelphia’ where the gang sees a gross stain on the wall that looks like the virgin mary, and then charlie and mac become duelling preachers to a bunch of homeless guys.  So charlie’s wearing his white suit and asking for an AAAAAMEN or a HALLELUJAH and talking a load of shite, telling the homeless guys whatever they want to hear (and plying them with liquor, of course).

Why do I feel like a fake preacher ministering to a bunch of homeless guys over a manky looking stain in a run down (and fictional, lets not forget fictional) pub?
First of all, I believe in the stain.  I really really do.

And isn’t it my job to educate in an effective way?  I think I just resent that ‘effective’ always has to equal entertaining these days.  Edutainment.  I mean, it’s cool when the two things overlap, and I think they often do naturally.  But it goes back to the attitude of the student as consumer.  College is like the most expensive movie ticket of your life.  You’ve paid your admission (and will keep paying for it for many years to come)- sit back and hey, try the popcorn.

Sometimes the actual material speaks for itself, and if you’re willing to stay awake and take a fucking closer look without the necessary learning aid of a tapdancing instructor, trying to entice the SHIT out of you (for learning purposes only), hm well maybe learning would be a bit more rewarding.

“yeah yeah, stop complaining,” the imaginary audience answers back. or so I um… imagine.

And they’re right- I could just not tap dance at all.  blast through the material ben stein style and if they get it, great.  If not, feeeck you.  But I want them to get it, to like what they are reading, and maybe become curious about learning more.

And without the noisy shoes, I don’t think I’d have a fucking chance.

Written by universityoflies

September 12, 2012 at 18:32

4 Responses

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  1. I completely empathize with what you are feeling. At 8 am, most college age students are not all that invested in grammar. I have to say though, that I have one professor (in Latin) who somehow manages to marry education and entertainment perfectly. He’s an older man, and knows everything about everything. When we do our readings, and he goes off onto his tangents, I feel as though he could be doing a one-man show. I have no idea how pedagogically sound it all is, but it is interesting.

    Post Medievalist

    September 13, 2012 at 00:41

    • ohh I know a man like that. he is absofuckinglutely brilliant.. he let me sit in on his classes years ago and it stuck with me in the way that you describe. It was the perfect balance of actual information and personal stories to keep the shitbirds interested. he’s got a beard, I wonder if that’s the secret..


      September 13, 2012 at 01:46

  2. I commend you for referencing Charlie, aka “Dayman.” Next up–a post about the Dick Towel, or perhaps Kitten Mittens.

    As a person with an absolute penchant for performing, being “on stage” and making the kids laugh, etc was my favorite part of the job. But as you wrote, the group dynamic is key. A shitty class full of disinterested sleepyheads is soul-killing.

    Dr. OH

    September 14, 2012 at 23:46

    • maybe kitten mittens are the missing ingredient for the shitty class dynamic? I’ll try it out and let you know how it goes 🙂


      September 15, 2012 at 02:28

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