Daily Archives: September 20, 2022

this way out

I wrote about an English professor of mine who wasn’t thrilled about having me in her class . Of that incident in my life I remember only a few moments during her office hours , how her hair was pulled back tightly behind her head , how she regretted the university rules that said it was too late by the time of the conference to have me drop the class , how she didn’t appreciate my satirical essay about Nixon/Beowulf .

I got a comment from a fellow blogger that said he’d had teachers like that . That’s where talent goes to die , he said . He had a point . ( In this particular case , though , he gives me too much credit . I’m pretty sure the Nixon/Beowulf essay was an all-around disaster . On the other hand , it may have been an incredible work of genius , now long -lost to the ages ! We’ll never know . )

After fifteen or twenty years of teaching I decided to take two night classes at Cal State LA . One was the use of audio-visual equipment in the classroom and the other was a beginning photography class . Somehow they were tied together , so when I got kicked out of one I was kicked out of both .

I know the rules . Students who missed two classes in a row were subject to being ejected from the class .

As it happened , the teacher of the audio-visual equipment class wouldn’t get around to showing us the equipment until she had lectured for the first three class sessions . As it happened , my in-laws had their sixtieth wedding anniversary on one of those class days , so I attended instead of going to class . The other class date was my mother’s birthday , so……. same thing .

I figured that I wasn’t really in the class to hear her wisdom or to get a foundational understanding of what we were all doing there one night each week . Besides , her first lecture was extremely boring , so I knew that I wouldn’t be missing much over the following two weeks .

Ah ! , but rules is rules ! When I came to class the following week , having made my way down the freeway and managed to find a parking spot and made a short trek to the classroom , the teacher called me outside . ” Daniel ! “, she said , and beckoned me with her finger , so I stepped outside the room . The other students , all adults , waited inside . ” You missed two classes in a row .” She then tried to impress upon me that I would never be able to make up the brilliant material in her two missed lectures , how it was such important information , so uniquely presented , and that I would be forever deprived of this necessary knowledge , etc.

A fellow classmate , a JPL ( Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena ) engineer in his sixties , stood behind her and , in pantomime , enthusiastically and hilariously mocked each of her statements . I understood him to mean that my hunch had been right , that those lectures were , more or less , filler before we got into the meat of the class . I tried not to react to his gestures and to maintain an appropriately serious expression while she admonished me .

But rules is rules and she wasn’t about to change her mind on the matter . I got a strong sense that I had offended her teacher ego and that was that . I’d been teaching long enough by then to be familiar with teacher egos . I think that English professor’s teacher ego had been insulted , too . No getting around a bruised ego in some cases .

I accepted her expulsion . I told her calmly that had she been in my class , however , I wouldn’t have kicked her out of the class . The JPL engineer suddenly looked surprised and shocked . We were all working adults there , after all , some teachers but other professions represented , too . No one needed college credit or whatever . It was all a bit silly to be chewed out and then tossed out , like a rehearsal for some schoolyard melodrama .

I walked back to my car in the dark and drove home . Missing the audio-visual class was really no big deal for me . I regretted missing the photography class , though . That might have been fun .

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