Sunday, October 04, 2009

It's Hip To Be Scared

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," typed several times a week by a person who has been a ball of anxiety since before John F. Kennedy was assassinated! Is it possible for a little kid to be anxious? You bet, my lieblings!

All my life I have lived with two problems:
1. Persistent anxiety
2. A dark and pessimistic view of life

We must remember that anxiety helped our species to rock on back in the bygone days. If you weren't scared of lions, you got eaten. You just had to worry about those lions all the time. And if the lions were sleeping, the snakes were up. And if both were sleeping you had to find stuff to eat.

In short, I believe that people who don't worry are part-alien mutants.

If you combine persistent anxiety with a dark and pessimistic view of life, you get ... my great-grandmother, from whom I inherited both traits.

On occasion, however, this bad emotional double-whammy can save one's day. Please settle in for a TGAB story!

On Saturday past, I had to drive to Rowan University to take a day course for alternate route teachers. The night before I had come down with a nasty grippe (didn't have to cook supper after all). Being pessimistic, I figured I would feel bad on Saturday morning, and by golly, I did.

Friday evening I checked the Alternate Route Teaching home page at Rowan University. It gave the time of the Saturday think tank and the location as the "education hall."

*No specific directions to the education hall. Ding ding ding! There goes the anxiety bell.
*Anxiety bell activates pessimism: "Shit. I'm gonna have trouble finding that building. I just know it."

The Rowan University web site gave general directions to its front gate. I perused the Rowan directions page and found the education hall on a primitive grid map. It is near the football stadium.

Given the scarcity of hard data, I decided to give myself 90 minutes to find the place. (It takes about 40 minutes to drive to Rowan on a Saturday morning.)

Thus it was that I got out of bed at 6:30 Saturday, gargled fruitlessly, and hopped in my Dodge right around 7:00. I found Rowan easily enough -- its front gate, that is. There was no one at the gate to give me directions to the education hall.

I could see the light standards of the football stadium to my left, nestled deep within the campus. But in New Jersey, seeing a landmark means nothing. You can hardly ever get there from here without help. So I asked a dude who was warming up for a morning jog, "How do I get to the stadium?"

He couldn't help me. He was like the scarecrow in the "Wizard of Oz." Literally, he said I could go this way, or that way, or both ways, and maybe I'd get there, but he wasn't sure how to do it.

In the meantime, another car pulled up behind me. It was a gal from Philly who was also slated to attend the lecture. She said she had found the stadium but couldn't figure out which building was the education building.

On the primitive map, it says, "education building." On the building, there's the name of some fat cat who dumped a load of ducats into the university coffers. In fact, all the buildings had fat cat names. With not even a sculpture or mosaic outside to give away their inner scholarly purposes.

I followed the Philly gal to a parking lot adjacent to the football stadium and a dull, square building that might or might not be the education building. She said she had tried the front door, and it was locked. Since we parked at the rear of the building, I suggested we give the service entry a shot. It was open. There was an elevator. We took it to the first floor. There was one dude in the lobby who said we needed the third floor.

Having spent 75 minutes to find a classroom that I could have gotten to in 45 (with better directions), I finally entered the lecture room where my sore throat and I would spend Saturday morning. The Philly gal and I were nearly the first people there. I told the professor I intended to sit in the rear of the room, as I was ill and didn't want to spread germs. Drawing himself to snarky heights, he sneered, "How good of you to grace us with your presence."

More teethmarks in the tongue. Where do they find these pompous skunks?

Anxiety quelled in favor of seething hatred, I took a seat right by the classroom door. I heard the professor tell the Philly gal that he expected 30 people for the lecture.

Promptly at 8:30 he began to drone in the usual way professors do, by telling us how little we knew about the pedagogy of education.

People were still streaming into the room. By 8:45 there were 50 people. By 9:00 there were 75 people. By 9:15, people were still coming. They had to drag chairs from an adjacent classroom. We students topped out at 100 strong -- more than twice the number considered safe by the fire marshal. (I knew this because I was sitting near the sign that said, "Maximum capacity: 49 persons." Oh, how I did WISH the fire marshal would make an unscheduled raid!)

At about 9:20, the professor doled out this tidbit of helpful advice:

"Two thirds of you will not make it in the profession of education."

Well, that sure was cheery news!

Then he continued:

"Do you know how I can tell? Because education is a business of MINUTES. You have to be on time! If you're two minutes late to your classroom, that's when your students will incite to riot. And how do I know you can't cut it? Look how many of you were LATE TO THIS CLASS!"

A considerable amount of squirming ensued. Almost everyone had been late.

Everyone except moi, the nervous Nelly who knows she needs all kinds of time to find a place that has:

*insufficient directions
*misleading signage
*locked front door

Early on a Saturday morning!

Pip pip for anxiety and the dark, pessimistic outlook! Saved my pink tush in the profession of education!

In closing, I would like to repeat myself. Many long decades ago, I attended the Johns Hopkins University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. In my four years there I met more than my share of pompous pedants. But here's the difference between the JHU profs and the ones I've met so far in alternate route education. The JHU profs were experts in their fields. (I had one once who cancelled class because he was going to advise Jimmy Carter.) This chap who lectured at Rowan Saturday morning had spent the sum total of 7 years in a classroom before ascending the ranks in the ed biz. By 35 he was a superintendent of a district, and he went on to advise several governors. Yet he was there to teach us how to teach! No politics of modern Cuba, no recent fossil finds, no insight into the nuances of King Lear, no spirited discussions of the philosophy of American letters in the Antebellum South. Nope, this dude with seven years' teaching (in the 1970s, no less) was there to teach neophyte teachers how to teach!

Oh well. He let us go early after giving us the answers to the handout we had to write on to prove we were there. I limped home and spent the rest of the day in the settee, mumbling lyrics to Talking Heads songs.


Anonymous said...

I've always wondered why, if ed professors are supposed to know all about teaching, their own presentations are invariably the most inept and boring. Rodger Cunningham

Anne Johnson said...

It's because they don't do, Professor Cunningham.

Alex Pendragon said...

Ann, I once gave a seminar on model rocketry to high school science teachers who acted so outlandishly immaturely that the coordinator had to apologize profusely to me for their unprofessional and juvenile behaviors. It was that day that teachers fell off their pedestals in my eyes and I quit believing in heroes.

I now have my own personal definition of wisdom that doesn't necessarily include the "educated".


i would have missed all that as i would have fallen asleep..

Lori F-MN said...

So part of the class Test to find the stupid class and the equally stupid instructor?
It would be more helpful if an actual currently teaching person was your instructor. It would also make things easier for the instructor if they found out what YOU knew before they actually taught.

Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of the fellow I knew in grad school who's now a highly paid educational consultant. His website notes that he has a doctorate in education, but it omits to say that he got it after being dropped from the psychology PhD program for incompetence. RC

Maebius said...

It always saddens me to hear stories of inept teachers, especially ones teaching teachers to teach.
I'll stick to thinking of your current night-classes as products of an increasingly complex paranoid conspiracy involving being purposely inept so as to weed out hte lateness and provide a self-discovered talent for independent thought. You passed Anne! :) Or something...

kimc said...

Is it nepotism? How do these people keep their jobs? Especially in a time when there are so many really good people out of work -- they could find someone who really knows how to teach to help you. Maybe they don't know how to tell who can and who can't teach? Yikes!

Gruvkitty said...

In my opinion, you can't "teach" generic teaching. I've taught many adjunct college art classes like drawing, painting, & 2-D design. I learned the format for my classes by observing the best of the teachers I'd had and consulting well done books. In grad school, I was an assistant in several classes and then eventually my school (Northwestern) allowed me to teach my own beginning level class. An undergrad might complain, but I really do believe this the best way to learn teaching. My class work was reviewed by tenured professors. I don't see why this approach can't work for earlier education. Why should a teacher only know "education" - how about a history or english major- or biology? I think that supplemental teaching workshops can be helpful, especially if they are actually taught well and communicate something useful. And of course, there are different theories of education with various techniques, but jumping through hoops just to acquire some certificate to appease the state seems like such a brain drain for everyone. I'm pro union, but the system the teachers unions have here in CA are stupefying our kids, and I'm sure it's similar elsewhere. But it's good to know that someone like you will still put up with all the bullshit to teach.

Anonymous said...

The real purpose of these sessions isn't to "teach" anything but to inculcate the subtext that any problem the student has is the teacher's fault. That's why administrators love to send people to them and teachers can't stand to be in them. RC