This I Believe

William - Thermopolis, Wyoming
Entered on June 26, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in communication, not the one on one communication we expect, but the group discussion that’s wholly demonstrative. It’s the classroom type communication I’m referring to.

I went to a catholic high school where some amount of corporal punishment was expected, this meant a tap on the desk or rap of the knuckle against the side of the head. It was used to wake students up. I resented this as I was usually the one either sleeping or just irritated at the authority in action aspect of the teacher. Usually what followed was the demand of the teacher to “join the discussion”.

Recently there was an incident that brought this point home. I’m an older student and what is popularly called non-traditional and I’m spending my own money to go back to college to get my Masters in geology. As I’m older than most students I try to get the most out of what is being discussed.

The discussion had occurred in an evolutionary biology class and was about another aspect of how science is just not about getting an idea across to people but its association to day by day experience. Questions were always answered by the graduate students and even more so there wasn’t any general discussion, (and worse no questions back). I was there, alive, breathing, thinking, but here was a class full of statues as wooden as the desks. I had become resentful of my fellow students and wanted a class with less observation and more intervention.

Then, without a sigh, or a curse the professor simply put the marker down, turned off the overhead projector and said “all this information is at your local library, bye folks”. It was awkward at the least, all of the students were looking at one another with confusion, but not so much angst as there was very little talking, and after a few moments the students drifted past the professors desk and the reality of getting out of class early had quickly overwhelmed any sense of … huh. I wanted to ask why but I felt his frustration and his irritation. The cancellation of class or part of it made me angry at first but I realized the effect had worked.

I woke up. The next series of classes were less remote, less bland, and it dawned on me to respond to questions as both advocate and gadfly.

These were tough subjects with serious repercussions but it was not going into the head or heart. It was not his ego talking but his frustration and the gentle but very realistic tap of a knuckle on the desk. Would more students take to heart and interact if it were a cost to them in humility and the realization that the lack of effort was equally insulting to the leader of the class? I hope so