Tall, Dark, and Mysterious

1/15/2005

I might even put it in the cover letter.

File under: Sound And Fury, Those Who Can't, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 10:08 pm.

The poor sap teaching the second semester precalculus class is one of the new permanent faculty who obviously didn’t know what he was getting into when he was offered that sucker assignment, because if he did, he’d have passed it on to some temp like me, and snagged the differential equations class or something for himself. But he didn’t, so he gets to teach the students who actually made it out of the first semester class, including the ones who didn’t get the grades they required because their teacher last term like TOTALLY SUCKED but who know they can do better this term if only they’re given a chance with a teacher who doesn’t totally suck and make them do shit like add up fractions when HELLO, this isn’t a course on fractions, it’s a course on PRECALCULUS.

But I digress: a mere six hours into teaching the second semester precaclulus class, Poor Sap had apparently already had an “incident” with one of the students (this was relayed to me by the department head, who is an older British man who uses words like “an incident” to describe everything from spilled milk to nuclear holocausts); this student had apparently taken up a great deal of class time asking question after question, each pertaining to material she should have mastered by grade 7. The other students were visibly impatient with her, and after some time Poor Sap cut her short, explaining that this was all prerequisite material, and that she was welcome to go to the tutorial centre for help or see him during his office hours, but that he was not going to spend any more class time on these questions. At this, the girl picked up her books and stomped out of class, proclaiming that this was completely ridiculous and that she wasn’t paying tuition to not have her questions answered.

I’m a very visual thinker, and by this point in the story I had formulated a clear mental image of this scene, and without even consciously thinking about it, I had this one particular former student of mine playing the role of the indignant student. “This student,” I asked Department Head, “Was her name [spoiled brat I taught last term]?”

“Poor Sap didn’t say,” replied Department Head, “But I can ask.”

Two days later, I got the verdict, delivered to me in reverent tones by Department Head: Yes, asamatteroffact, it was Spoiled Brat from last term.

And that right there, that’s going to be my answer to that ubiquitous interview question, “What are your greatest strengths as a teacher?”

“I really get to know my students,” I’ll say. “As INDIVIDUALS.”

5 Comments

  1. You are so funny. And that Poor Sap moniker is just too much; I’m dying laughing. If you ever write a novel I will be fist in line to buy it. (Note: it could just be me, but I have the feeling that things are getting more darkly comic on this site with every passing week.)

    - wes — 1/15/2005 @ 11:28 pm

  2. Well, back when I was a kid, I wanted to be a novelist, but I gave it all up to teach university students how to add fractions. The upside is that once I get to be too much of a curmudgeon to go back to the classroom, I’ll have exactly the right temperament to write entire novels’ worth of darkly comic prose.

    - Moebius Stripper — 1/16/2005 @ 12:14 am

  3. Reminds me of what I say about bigoted people…they’re just lazy. I dislike/loathe people on an individual basis. Doesn’t that feel so much better?

    But when you relayed the scene, I knew it had to be spoiled brat.

    Oh, and I like the comment preview. I’ve noticed a lot of my favorite blogs have it now. Dammit, I wish I could get WordPress to work for me at mathuniverse. I think I’ll try again… after the baby is born. Maybe.

    - meep — 1/17/2005 @ 4:57 am

  4. It amuses me that not only did you guess who the student was, but that you are also pretty confident that the moniker Spoiled Brat identifies her uniquely.

    - Moebius Stripper — 1/17/2005 @ 3:19 pm

  5. Well, back when I was a kid, I wanted to be a novelist, but I gave it all up to teach university students how to add fractions. The upside is that once I get to be too much of a curmudgeon to go back to the classroom, I’ll have exactly the right temperament to write entire novels’ worth of darkly comic prose.

    Wow. I can only appreciate the compacted bitterness that went into the shaping of this paragraph. I have clearly led too easy and comfortable a life, for though I admire the wine’s flavour I have no idea where even to collect the grapes, much less ferment them.

    Well put.

    - saforrest — 4/29/2005 @ 5:38 am

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