In the last few years I've had a quite heterogeneous group of teachers. What follows is a brief satire of two of the most common clichés I encountered. Warning: This is not to be taken seriously!
The “prima donna”:
This teacher usually postpones his class for a few weeks (so that the schedule has to be altered for him) and then manages to arrive more than half an hour late. He keeps glancing at his watch, clearly wanting to leave as soon as possible. He will not apologize for his being late, but he will demand you leave the class should you arrive 2 minutes after him. His presentation has at least 150 slides, most of them in a foreign language and with incomprehensible graphics and stats. He will say a minimum of 10 times that he was a distinguished speaker at the last International Congress of Something You Won't Know How To Spell Until You're In Fourth Year, and that he has won several awards you never heard of and may not even exist. He will tell you that he has published no less than 17 papers in the last 2 weeks. He will also hint that his current research is based on what could be the next Nobel Prize and it's very likely he’s started writing the script for a future Academy Award winning biopic on his many accomplishments. He will insist that you take notes because he will not repeat things and everything he will say will be of extreme importance. Do not ask questions unless you want to be humiliated.
- Yawn factor: 12 out of 10. Be prepared for your Glasgow score to drop below 8 as you listen to him ramble on and on and on.
- Annoyance probability: high, with a chance of students quietly walking away.
- Caution! Avoid eye contact. Directly looking into his eyes will be interpreted as an act of provocation and will anger him. He might react by asking you impossible questions. A general look of submission and utter ignorance -with the occasional grunt- is recommended.
- Tip: To make his pomposity a bit more tolerable, try to picture him tripping over his many achievements and falling from his own ego… certainly, a deadly fall.
The substitute: “Well, let me start by saying that Dr X was very sorry he could not be here today… He had an emergency and he asked me to give this class for him”.
Those are probably the least auspicious words you can hear when you’re sitting down in your lecture room at 8.00 in the morning, caffeine pumping through your blood, notebook and pen ready to roll. With those lines begins the mass murder of students’ hope of a good lesson. He doesn’t want to be there, in fact he’s actually sorry he’s there and he wishes he were somewhere else – of course, so do you: you too wish he were somewhere else. You know what’s to come will be an improvised rambling on something the speaker doesn’t really know much about. The worst part is that he knows this too. He knows you know he doesn’t know. So he shuffles papers and feet, he makes an attempt at humour and -needless to say- fails miserably, his speech becomes more and more hesitant and chaotic, he stutters and his sentences start to not make any sense at all, first medically and then grammatically. As you guiltily amuse yourself by watching him sink deeper and deeper into dementia, he finally chokes. This abrupt halt in what could only be described as a severe case of verbal diarrhoea, is taken by a fellow student as the opportunity to ask the question that will completely undermine what was left of the speaker’s self-confidence. Of course, he does not know the answer to the question, which may or may not have been intentionally and maliciously premeditated, depending on the student’s good will or lack thereof. As the speaker wipes the cold sweat off his forehead, he will either concoct an unfathomably inaccurate yet very complex elliptic answer or he will try to dodge said question by exclaiming with mock laughter “Oh, no need to worry about that, no one is going to ask you such a hard question in your exam!”. After this, defeat is evident for everyone present and the speaker has no choice but to admit it, swallow hard and round things off by exhaling at supersonic speed “Anyotherquestions? No? Well,thenthatwillbeall. Youmaytakeabreaknow. Thankyouverymuch”. And everyone in the room is relieved that the ordeal is finally over.
- Chances of dozing off: Incredibly high. Just relax and surrender to the sweet embrace of tedium.
- Tip: This class is a wonderful time to do your shopping list or figure out the whereabouts of a missing sock. An occasional nod of agreement with or without “Mhmm” is recommended for politeness.
Now, for the good teacher: attempting to describe this rare species would be very challenging and most subjective... what is good for me, might be mediocre for you. So why don’t you help me? What do you think makes a good teacher? Would you like to share any inspiring experiences you might have had?