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 .

6 Comments

Filed under humor

6 responses to “this way out

  1. It can be unfortunate how much of an impact teachers can have on us. I do my best only remember the great ones. And I had very many of those. So many taught me to see more than was in front of me. Kudos to teachers everywhere!

  2. There are rules and then there are rules. People should consider the larger picture. Like Pam, I remember the good teachers I’ve had. The ones like this woman…I think they’re all name Harriet.

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