Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Professors From Hell

I'm really excited about school starting Monday. I love teaching.

When I went back to grad school (for my 2nd masters & my doctorate) my first professor on the first day was John P., Ph.D. John was, without question, one of the best instructors at any level on any subject that I have ever had. Watching him teach was like watching a piece of performance art--every single class, he gave his all. High energy, encyclopedic knowledge, a sense of humor, passion, style--that was John. And one day in class, I remember thinking, "That looks like fun."

My first year out of school, I was lucky if I had six clients in a week, so in order to keep body and soul together, I decided to look for part-time teaching work. As it happened, a local commuter college was looking for someone to take over a course at the last minute, and I got the job. But I had gone to a professional school, and they don't have any interest in teaching teaching, so I graduated without any experience at all. As a result, I was pretty awful. I read a joke to open my first class. But I was right about one thing: This is fun! I loved it from the get-go.

Now, as I wrap up preparations for starting another semester, I think not only about how I wish to teach, which is to say, 'like John', but also about the burden on me how not to teach. Which brings us to the first Professor From Hell. (Further installments to come.)

This gal nearly drove us all crazy. We were beginning a series of three classes about which I was pretty excited as the topic had not received much coverage in my first Masters degree program. I was looking forward to this class. Boy was I disappointed. This instructor was a student of the Dean's from her grad school days at his previous place of employment, and I believe he'd hired her because he liked her rather than for her talents she had as a teacher, since we could never detect that she possessed any.

In preparing for her lectures, she xeroxed the text, then literally cut and pasted sections of it onto legal pad pages and read it to us! Talk about tedious. Hour after hour, she would read. Watching her was more painful than watching grass grow. We asked her not to, but it made no difference. On she read, relentlessly. We complained to the Dean, but it made no difference. She kept on reading. This was back before everybody had cellphones in their pockets or laptops in their backpacks, so we were hard-pressed to find ways to entertain ourselves. Two or three people would fall asleep every class period. Our class clown tried to lighten things up, but after the first few weeks she took him aside during a break and told him if he kept it up all the professors in the department would hate him and it would affect his grades. This reduced him to gloomy silence punctuated by snoring, and left the rest of us to our own devices to stay awake.

I can't say I learned much on the topic in her class, but I did learn something about how not to teach: Every semester I vow that whatever else happens, "I will not be boring!"

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