I am teaching a class right now that sucks balls.
Hey, at least I didn’t make the mistake of saying it “literally” sucks balls, right? Because that would be weird.
But seriously folks. This class is awful, and it’s breaking my heart. It’s an intro to the English major for sophomores, so we cover genres and fields of criticism at the introductory level, and when I taught it in the past it was glorious. I couldn’t wait to do it again. Our enrollment is low this year so class sizes followed suit, meaning I ended up with only nine students in the class, which I expected would make it even MORE awesome. Discussion! Circled chairs and intense sessions of academic discovery! Me, unable to get a word in edgewise because of the frenetic student engagement!
It is not like that. It is a dead class. Not resting or pining for the fjords. It’s bleeding demised. Gone to meet its maker. Oh, they’re pleasant enough. They smile at me, even snicker at my jokes, but otherwise they are stone silent. We’ve been talking about poststructuralism for a week–and I’m sorry, but that shit is interesting–and I can’t tell if they even get how much they are not supposed to get it. I hop around at the front of the class like a Saussurean signifier of desperation, and they sit there like effing Easter Island statues. Staring. Mute. Inscrutable.
Yesterday I showed up with discussion questions and copies of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror.” Only seven students had deigned to appear, so I made them circle their chairs to face each other, put the questions up on the Smart Board, and commanded them to produce ONE set of answers, agreed upon by all. I hung around for about twenty minutes, during which time only one student made a serious effort to start a conversation while the others sat there copying down the questions. (The hell? WHY ARE YOU COPYING THAT? You’re supposed to be talking about answers! What is this, fourth grade?) Finally I decided I might be intimidating them, so I went down the hall to my office. When I came back–when there were still twenty minutes left in the class period–they were GONE. The paper was on the desk, the chairs back in their oppressive rows, and the students had excused themselves, without even bothering to send an envoy to my office to let me know. I could not believe it.
This colossal fail is beginning to interfere with my sleep, not to mention my self esteem. Being an effective teacher constitutes a sizable chunk of my positive self image. I was the goddamn Regents’ Superior Teacher last year! What is happening right now?