Forty-Something Years in Ninaland


The Absent Minded Professor

ID-100249363I have to tell you about this professor gig…

Once I had a student who was behind in his work and asked me if I could speak with him privately outside the classroom. He told me he was struggling because of a death in the family. He said it was really rough. He wasn’t losing any points in the class, he wasn’t that behind, and I listened compassionately. I sincerely felt bad for this kid. He told me how his girlfriend was all shook up. I finally asked who had passed away. He told me his girlfriend’s dog died. Not his dog, his girlfriend’s dog. I’m serious. You can’t make this stuff up.

I love dogs, I really do. And I love dogs I really do, did I already say that? Yeah.  I mean I felt bad. When I thought a person had died, I was ready to give him extensions and free passes. Honestly I felt a little betrayed. Is it fair to give a guy an extension because his girlfriend’s dog died? What exactly is the protocol here?

Anyways… so I had this one other class that met at nine in the morning.

The students were officially in REM sleep during the entire class.

I tried discussions, I tried provocative articles. I did a dog and pony show for them, tried all the tricks in my magic bag, but they would not wake up. Half of them showed up at ten, another third never showed up at all. It was a situation.

So I go on Rate My Professor dot com, and low and behold some jerk gave me one star out of five. I knew it was someone from that nine o’clock class. If I were a motel I would not even be a Motel 6, Motel 6 has two stars. It was my only rating on Rate My Professor. So I did the only natural thing I could think of, I rated myself. Oh stop it, it’s not like illegal or anything. And my opinion counts.

Then I went to my other classes jokingly and told them I had one lone horrific rating, could they go on Rate My Professor and rate me? I figured no one else was going to give me a one star! (By the way I think the culprit who rated me was the chic who I had to actually call on the telephone the night before grades were due to ask her if she could possibly turn in something or she would fail). That was when I extended myself for the one or two morons in my classes.

So I’m not asking you to go on Rate my Professor and rate me or anything, I mean I would never suggest such a thing. Besides I don’t want to get kicked off of it if word gets around that I rated myself. They should really check student I.D.’s if they want it to be legit. Just saying.

I honestly think the only objection my students had with me was that in one class, I per chance and per say was two weeks late grading their papers. I mean, what? Don’t judge. You don’t know how bad some of these papers are.

In the most fun class I had, I brought in music videos from the eighties to show them something or the other about visual arguments and visual expression.

It was a small intimate class. So you know that song We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel? Well (no I did not sing it in front of the class) we all know what a disaster rating I would get from that! But I had them fill in the things that they thought were starting the metaphorical fire in society today. They had to make up lyrics in the same format as the original song. They wrote about technology and terror etc.

They made up amazing, rhyming lyrics. One kid went up to the front of the class and sang the lyrics with the background music to the song. At that moment, when he was singing, something happened in that room that I can’t describe. It was like a symphony. All the beauty of learning and teaching and music and words wrapped up together in a rhythm and harmony I can’t recreate. We were jiving!

Later that kid who sang the lyrics missed three classes, during the last class he came to the classroom and asked me if I could talk to him in the hallway. Now since my experience with the dead dog, I wasn’t expecting much. But this guy looked like he’d been punched in the face. I asked him if he was OK. He told me he fell on his face. I didn’t believe him.

He had talked and written about how he was a recovering addict in class. In the hallway he told me had a relapse and he was staying in a Halfway House. He had taken two buses and walked to get to my class. He said he had to get back to the house by eight, but asked if he did his last essay could he pass my class? I told him yes. He had legitimately done enough work at this point that I could pass him if he did that final essay.

I sent him a few emails asking him for his essay and received no response. He emailed me after I had turned in the grades, he never did the essay. He told me he could get it in, in four or five days. I told him it was too late. I had to fail him. They heavily frown upon in-completes at my college. Maybe I should have tried anyways. I should have asked him how he was. I should have said something about how much it moved me that he sang that song for us. How much it meant to me that he really participated in our discussions, tried to write well, and even came out about his addiction problems in the discussions and in his writing.

I could have made a difference, I should have made a difference in that last email. I want to email him from my personal account, but unlike Hilary Clinton, I know that’s not kosher. He was a student, not a friend.

Speaking of a student I thought of as friendly, let’s not forget the FOB, fresh off the boat, Indian Sikh woman who plagiarized her last paper.

I don’t know if she didn’t think I would notice that her completely discombobulated English was suddenly stellar. I think some other FOB wrote the paper for her, because it was still weird and messed up, but in much better shape than her previous work. She could not have improved that much, I’m not that good of a teacher. It was not possible that she wrote it.

I didn’t get her kicked out of school, which I could have. But I was particularly upset that she did something so wrong and was Indian and Sikh like me. She was representing my people! She needed a B in the class to get into her program, I made sure she didn’t get in. OK, OK I’m guilty I didn’t fail her. In my defense it would have been complicated to fail her, I would have to go through administrative hoops and such.

It wasn’t because she was Indian or Sikh that I let her off so easy. She started school her second month in this country! (I know, Donald Trump would have a field day with the fact that she was an immoral immigrant). OK OK, I felt bad for her. OK I’m a sucker.

Speaking of immoral Donald Trump, one of my students was a stripper.

Did I mention this before? Yup, she decided to come out with me and my friends on the last day of class to the bar. Calm yourself, she didn’t strip for us. She offended my friends, invited a complete stranger over to my friend’s house, and then proceeded to ask the Uber driver if he wanted to come in too.

I will tell you, I’ve never hung out with someone who genuinely lives in the fast lane. And for a moment when I was hanging out with her I felt a rush, like I was part of the cool crowd or something. In the end she just wanted to blow out my hair and do my nails. I’ve got enough gay men in my life who could do a better job than her!


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 October 7th, 2015  
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