Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So Far, So Mean

The first day of school went off without incident. Except. My plan for the semester (for my life, really) was to wear the Power Outfit and scare my students into respecting me. Or my clothes, at least. But I didn't do any shopping before the semester started, so I had to go for the casual teacher outfit.
Also, I try to be the right combination of nice and scary on the first day, so that the students who will inevitably end up to be a pain drop and the nice students stay. I wasn't even mean in my first two classes.
But then, as I was talking about the importance of participation, I saw a student in the back of the class doing something with a small handheld electronic device. So I said, "Or, for example, if you are sitting at the back of the room, playing with an electronic device instead of paying attention, I'll remember that." Nothing. He didn't even look up. I paused for dramatic effect. The class was quiet. Then, he finally looked up, and I asked him to put it away. "If you don't want to be here," I said, "don't come. But there are people who want to be in this class. I can't make you a better writer unless you want to be one."
The students sat in a stunned silence. Then I went on with my boring monologue concerning the syllabus.
I rushed right home to see if he dropped. So far, he hasn't.


Nik said...

You are a paragon of meanitude. I plan to adopt your Cruella Deville-esque ways. (BTW, we were once again in the middle of a house deal when you IM'd. I promise this business stuff will be over soon).

theorris said...

Mean? Nay! I'm glad you let them all know (not just the example student) that you take this stuff seriously. Perhaps he will wake up.

middlebrow said...

Excellent. And now that I think of it, she should have worn her big boots.

But I did keep her from wearing the lime green skirt.

Lisa B. said...

Good job and very bold. That interchange was an entire power outfit unto itself, as it were.

lis said...

I failed completely to be mean or to wear the teacher clothes. I have this system where I don't wear jeans until like week four and it works I tell you, it works. But I didn't do any shopping or any laundry, so I wore jeans. (and upon seeing Lynn I felt guilty about the fact that I was wearing jeans). And I'm pretty sure I didn't even scowl once. Not a good start I tell you!

susansinclair said...

I do the no-jeans thing, too, but as warm as it is around here these days, and as much trouble as my body's having regulating its temperature, I think they'll be getting me in skirts with bare legs, and my pale scarred legs don't really instill confidence.

And I told some inexperienced TAs the other night to do exactly what you did when faced with rude behavior--and they were shocked! I don't think it ever occurred to them they could do that. Of course, they're in those annoying fields where you really are an assistant to the prof, rather than instructor of their own class, but still. I got no time and no patience, and neither do the rest of the folks in class. If you can't fake being attentative for a hour, how are you ever going to survive in the work world???

Limon de Campo said...

You have mad mean skillz. You are my new hero. Every semester I vow to be less nice, less available, less motherly. And then I accidentally end every first class by asking everyone to please love me. Please. Please.

Also, today? I wore my skirt sideways and had lipstick on my teeth. Is that in any way good?

Counterintuitive said...

I'm late on the uptake...I too vow to be meaner but somehow tend to be less mean than I intended. Whether that's good or not I'm unsure. If only there were a perfect way to get the bad apples to drop and the good ones to stay. Unfortunately some of my most ardent (very few) student supporters who, eventually, loved my classes hated me and the class at the beginning.