oxymoron67: (dino head)
[personal profile] oxymoron67

When I first started at my present job, I spent a lot of time working with our electronic portfolio (e-portfolio) initiative, expanding our students’ e-portfolios so that they included not only written work, but audio and video clips as well.

I worked especially closely with our internship people. Our students were all required to do two internships, and they had to take Fundamentals of Professional Advancement (FPA) before they could do their internships. FPA required that each student build an e-portfolio.

A professor reserved the Speech Center for two hours for her FPA class. Her students were to have a two-minute long “about me” speech prepared. The students would be taken, one by one, into the other lab to record their videos. Meantime, everyone else would be working on some other e-portfolio related project. Finally, the students would upload their videos onto their e-portfolios.

When the class arrived, I immediately noticed that this professor, whom I’ll call Professor Jellyfish, had no control over her students.

No, seriously. This class was rowdy and disrespectful. When Professor Jellyfish tried to settle them down, they either ignored or ridiculed her. They were singing, screaming and generally acting less like college students and more like ten year olds on a sugar high.

I was aghast.

However, they were in MY house now, and I don’t put up with that shit. I slammed my hand on the whiteboard several times and said, in a loud voice, “All right everyone! Sit down and be quiet! I SAID SHUT UP! Let’s get this started. You need to be videotaped. Volunteers?”

No one moved. No one even made eye contact.

Me: Fine. You! (As I pointed to a random student)
Student: But I’m not…
Me: NOW!

The student reluctantly followed me into the other lab. As I started videotaping him, the student pulled out a script and held it DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HIS FACE. After I told him that was unacceptable -- I mean who wants to watch a video of a sheet of paper for two minutes? – He held the paper at waist level, looking down at it the whole time, giving us a wonderful video of the top of his head while he mumbled. This was not an improvement over the talking sheet of paper. So, I grabbed the paper out of his hands and told him to do his speech without notes. The student protested but he did it.

It was easily the best of the three recordings.

As a result, I made the snap decision that they wouldn’t be allowed to use notes.

I walked the student into the computer lab, and announced this. All Hell broke loose.

At first, the class looked to Professor Jellyfish to overrule me, but she said that I was the expert and they had to listen to me. (Sometimes, working with the spineless has its advantages.) Then, the students reacted like I told them I was going to tear their arms off and mount them as trophies on my office wall or something.

I was in no mood for this. I exploded, yelling:

Just stop! All I’m asking you to do is talk about yourselves without a script for two minutes. You do that all the time. You can manage it here. And, honestly, if being videotaped for two minutes while you talk about yourselves is the worst thing to happen to you this week, you lead lives of amazing privilege, and I do not want to hear about it. Take a deep breath; grow a spine and DEAL WITH IT. Who’s next? No volunteers? Fine… (I pointed at a student) YOU. NOW.

The rest of the class went smoothly. I got major league bitch face from most of them, but that didn’t bother me.

After the class, Professor Jellyfish asked me what I thought about what had happened. Here is a snippet of that conversation.

PJ: I just don’t know what to do with them.
Me: It’s your class. You should be in control.
PJ: But I believe in a community of learning. Where we’re all equals. So no one needs to be in charge.
Me: Really? Your students disrespected you. When you tried to establish control they ignored you. Or they laughed at you. How is that encouraging any learning at all?
PJ: But I don’t think what you did was necessary. I think you should negotiate with them…
Me: Oh, for God’s sake. Look, either learn to deal with your class – you know, the job you’re paid to do— or get out of the profession because this? This is an embarrassment and it needs to stop.

Clearly, I was still a little angry.

Professor Jellyfish was very upset with me as she left my office. I figured that she’d never want to work with me again.

About a month or so later, I ran into Professor Jellyfish in the hall. She had a smile on her face when she said:

I channeled you in class today. They were complaining about an assignment and I had had enough, so I looked at them and said, “What would Professor Sean tell you? He’d tell you to sit down, take a deep breath and DO THE DAMNED WORK! So sit down, take a deep breath and do the damned work!”

We both laughed. I’ve worked with Professor Jellyfish several times since, and, I have to say, she doesn’t have discipline problems in her classes anymore. Makes me proud.

Date: 2013-06-09 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] michikatinski.livejournal.com
Headline: Jellyfish grows spine!


Love this. Your stories make me happy. They also make me cackle. ;)

Date: 2013-06-11 03:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
Thanks! It;s nice to know that I entertain people.

Date: 2013-06-09 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] similiesslip.livejournal.com
Classroom discipline is key! I learned a lot in my internship.

And honestly, "taking charge" is more loving than allowing chaos PLUS everyone learns more. Which is the point, after all :)

Date: 2013-06-11 03:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
In her defense (kind of), many folks are big on the whole "The teacher needs to surrender control to the students" thing, but that only works in EXTREMELY limited circumstances.

And intro level courses at a community college are not those circumstances.

Date: 2013-06-09 11:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roina-arwen.livejournal.com
I love the name Professor Jellyfish!

I swear, the whole "we need to be friends, not authorities" that adults/parents/teachers seem to hold today is ridiculous. You are the ADULT / PARENT / TEACHER, not their friend or equal, so act like it!


Date: 2013-06-11 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
Yes: you can either be an authority figure or a friend. Not both.

Date: 2013-06-09 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-kosmos.livejournal.com
Well done, sir!

Date: 2013-06-11 03:31 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-06-10 12:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] myrna-bird.livejournal.com
A great lesson for the teacher! Ha!

Date: 2013-06-10 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] particle-person.livejournal.com
She'd been reading too much James Herndon. I loved his books, but I bet he was an awful teacher.

Date: 2013-06-11 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
A decentralized classroom is also one of the current big things in education theory.

And in certain times and places and with the right students*, it can work. I do not teach at an institution where it can work.

*I'm not insulting our students here. It;'s just that that sort of learning takes experience and a certain amount of Academic discipline which students at the community college level just simply don't have,

Date: 2013-06-10 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] adoptedwriter.livejournal.com
We have to help each other. Good job! AW

Date: 2013-06-10 04:18 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Default)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
I'm glad the teacher learned her lesson. Sometimes, you have to be the adult!

Date: 2013-06-11 03:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
I know that she was observed right around the time of this incident, so I'm guessing that right after I chewed her out, her supervisor did.

I mean, we've never actually discussed it, but that's what I'm betting on. It's easy to ignore one person, it's harder to ignore more than one, especially when one of them writes up a report that goes into your permanent file.

Date: 2013-06-10 10:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
PJ: But I believe in a community of learning. Where we’re all equals. So no one needs to be in charge.

Then why the f*@k does she think the college is paying her? If they're all equals, let the students teach themselves. Honestly.

Though I do like that she actually learned something from you! It is possible to be firm, and it will not kill anyone! Excellent work. :D

Date: 2013-06-11 03:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oxymoron67.livejournal.com
My guess is that she wasn't a very experienced teacher.

The whole "we're are co-learners" thing is something taught in education theory courses, and it just doesn't really work.

Date: 2013-06-11 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] halfshellvenus.livejournal.com
It doesn't work in parenting, either. I hope it's dying off as a fad, but it has produced a lot of people who are too concerned with being their child's "friend" to actually parent them. And boy, is that not good for kids.

Date: 2013-06-12 07:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kf4vkp.livejournal.com
Love that she took a page from your playbook.

Date: 2013-06-12 10:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Bwahahahaha. Awesome ending. :D

Date: 2013-06-13 02:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
I love that Professor Jellyfish let you know she took your advice to heart. I think there's a place for an open environment of learning, but ultimately someone has to be in charge.

Date: 2013-06-13 05:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] porn-this-way.livejournal.com
But I believe in a community of learning. Where we’re all equals. So no one needs to be in charge.


That's one of those "lovely in theory, recipe for disaster in practice" educational theories. Excellent job kicking some ass! Definitely sounds like it needed to happen and then it benefited everyone involved.

Date: 2013-06-13 06:44 am (UTC)

Date: 2013-06-13 03:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bringing-words.livejournal.com
Yay for shining moments of pedagogy ;D

Date: 2013-06-13 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sweeny-todd.livejournal.com
hooray for Prof. Jellyfish taking control ^_^

Date: 2013-06-13 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] majesticarky.livejournal.com
Nice! Sometimes struggling teachers need that kind of approach. It's good that she's channeling professor Stingray more these days : ).

Date: 2013-06-13 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
It's the same with parenting. When KFP had just turned 2, he started testing the limits. At first, we tried just encouraging the good behaviors, but we soon learned you had to acknowledge the bad ones, and sometimes that even meant laying down the law!

Date: 2013-06-13 10:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whipchick.livejournal.com
OMG, the greatest moment of my life was realizing that I can be "collaborative" and still be IN CHARGE. Loved this!

Date: 2013-06-14 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheshire23.livejournal.com
This is a wonderful story, and gave me a lot to think about for my own course design.


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