Saturday, February 14, 2009

The plain truth

A couple of quotes, and a couple of other things:

from an interview with David Lynch:
Interviewer, about Lynch's comic strip, "The Angriest Dog in the World": "... (S)omebody said, 'The comic strip originated from a time in Lynch's life when he was filled with anger'..."
Lynch: "Yeah. 'The Angriest Dog in the World' wasn't really about anger in me, it was more (pause) anger in that dog."

Two girls, from the high school senior classes I'm observing and student teaching this semester:
Girl A, semi-accusatorily: "Why did you quit basketball?"
Girl B: "I didn't like the way Miss __ coached, and she was making me hate basketball. Why did you quit volleyball?"
Girl A: "My booty got too big for the shorts."

Speaking of high school kids, I think I'm going to love teaching them. Several of my college professors, past and present, have delivered elitist tirades about the lowliness and incompetence of high school teachers and how horribly they're doing their jobs, not to mention how unimportant those jobs are compared to the prestigious rarefied air of a tenured professorship. Most of this contempt comes from a combination of privileged upper-class snobbery and an ignorance and/or disinterest in actual good teaching. There are terrible high school teachers in the world, and a lot of them, but most college professors think that lecturing for the entire class period, and never varying their methods or getting to know their students as individual learners, is an effective way to teach. Never mind that a fucking century of research shows that this is the worst way to teach. Even bad high school teachers know this stuff -- they're just lazy and/or embittered. Higher education institutions place more value on research than teaching, and it desperately shows. I'm very glad that a handful of my friends are either professors now, or getting close, because they are curious, non-complacent, and driven people, and college kids deserve good teachers.
I'm just frustrated with the badmouthing high school teachers get from professors because the latter can't engage their students, even though they haven't varied their approach in 25 years. Somehow, it's the 9th-grade teacher's fault you suck as a professor. Some of these jerks can't even conceive that a bunch of 18-year-olds aren't wetting their pants about particle physics or Chaucer or the French Revolution, despite their non-student-centered dry lecturing and regurgitation-based tests.

6 comments:

Lei-Leen said...

God, you really have to meet my friend Shannon. She's finishing her doctorate in ed at Carbondale, and working a lot with at-risk kids. You guys would have the most awesome discussions to watch... ever.

Dr. Mystery said...

I'm flattered that you overestimate my conversational skills, but I think one of the main reasons I want to work with kids is that I feel no self-consciousness when I talk to them. However, when I talk to adults of any age that I don't know well, I can only feel three things:
1) boredom
2) nervousness at the inadequacy of my articulation
3) feelings of smashing the person in the face with a brick repeatedly until even I am horrified at what I have done
I am terrified or bored by adult strangers!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. The problem with teaching at giant research 1 universities like NE, or TX, or OH is that the professors aren't paid to teach: literally every minute they spend teaching is a minute not spent doing research and publishing, which is how they get tenured, promoted, and valued within the University. The good professors -- and there are plenty -- will still find ways to be good teachers, for free, and at the expense of sleep and family and Resident Evil 4 marathons. But it isn't required, and it relies on saints. And that is a huge problem.

The second problem is that lots of brilliant, world-class researchers and intellectuals are, at best, horrible teachers or, at worst, horribly crippled social beings, terrified and bored by adult and teenage strangers alike. These people have no business being in a classroom, and it's unfair -- to all parties involved -- to put them in front of 100 20-year-olds and expect them to be able to do anything, let alone teach someone something.

How do you fix this: who knows? But you have to start by recognizing that there are two different jobs, that not everyone can do both, and that you have to find ways to reward and encourage either, but not at the expense of the other.

That said, I'm convinced that you'll love teaching high school, and that you'll be good at it. (Oddly enough, my word verification is "fratoria," which is exactly the dystopia you'll be avoiding by teaching in a high school.)

Anonymous said...

Goddamn, I love volleyball-player-booty.

Junebug

steigrrr said...

everyone seems to think i'm crazy when i say this, but i have been seriously considering getting an m.a. in english and a teaching certificate, quitting my tenure track job at a university, and trying to get a job teaching high school english.

i guess my booty is just getting way too big for those academic britches.

Dr. Mystery said...

I totally don't think you're crazy. It sounds sane to me.