Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Darren Deadwood Joins the Ranks of RYS Cult Heroes.

The mailbag last night was jammed with support for Darren Deadwood, he of the crumpled $20 bill. It was nearly a clean sweep as well, with only a dozen or so dissenters. One student wrote, "All he taught those kids was to wait until he takes his wallet out before talking." What can you do? We've chosen a sampling of last night's mail, and we have displayed the flava below:

  • I think that what Darren Deadwood did was not only brave, but was also good pedagogy. What better way to get across a sustained failure of a class to meet their end of the classroom bargain than to dramatically exhibit disgust at their lack of preparedness? Whether they knew it or not, they were testing the instructor's boundaries, and ran smack dab into a wall as a result. That he saw neither hide nor hair of them afterwards encourages me. They know he's mad, and they're hiding from them. I'd be more worried if they found Darren outside of class to see if they could get in on some of that sweet $20 action too.

  • I hope you can get this message to Darren. Don't worry about this Friday. If your students have any sense (well, maybe worry a bit), they'll understand your frustration. My students KNOW they're slackers, KNOW they're avoiding work. They KNOW this, but don't act like it. Why? Because nobody calls them on it. They get passed along like precious gems, teacher to teacher. They are used to being coddled and they like it. (What's not to like?) You've shaken them up. I know it. I've never done anything as dramatic or wonderful as you did - when does an adjunct even HAVE a $20 bill! - but I've called them out on their behavior many times. And what happens? They realize they're in the room with someone who cares. They mind their manners, pull up their pants, take the fucking caps off, and work. They'll do it. Even if we have to ask for it, beg for it, cajole it, or thrum it out of them. They CAN do it. But we have to be tougher than their parents, than Mrs. Parker in senior English, and certainly tougher than the admissions officer who told them, "This is a student-centered college." Fuck. What a business.

  • Leo Longfellow hit the nail on the head. The RYS Effect is bravery. Hearing Darren's story yesterday changed me. I have been in those classrooms, have felt that impatience and sorrow and madness at a group of students who won't learn, who will REFUSE to learn. What are we supposed to do? Take it? Just sit and eat shit in the classroom between eating shit at the feet of the college president and his minions? No, we - all faculty - have to take some sort of control. Why do I put up with late students, lazy students? I don't want them to NOT LIKE ME, or evaluate me poorly. Why? Shouldn't I have their best interests in mind? Shouldn't I give a shit and let them know the truth? Shouldn't I "say my say"? Indeed. Thank you, Darren. Go back into class next Friday and reap the rewards from shaking them up.

  • A twenty dollar bill, look at you, look at you. What makes me sad about this story is that his students probably now think he's crazy, he's being unfair, etc. His evals will suffer, students will feel justified in any complaint they had against the class, and so on. But the thing is, I don't think he's really the crazy one. He--and all of us--are just shit out of luck in terms of options. My students are dead inside. Maybe it's not their fault. But it sure as hell isn't mine, either. And what am I supposed to do with those lumps? I find myself able to reach, inspire, or even interact with fewer and fewer each term. I want to yell at them. I want to shake them. I want to crumple up twenty dollar bills, storm out of the room, start throwing things SOMETHING that makes them feel or think ANYTHING at all. I don't know how to do this anymore, and while walking out of the room doesn't sound like a solid pedagogy, I am beginning to wonder if "Extreme Teaching" is a necessary trend. Standing in the front of a blank room day after day is dehumanizing and pointless. Maybe drama is the answer. I wonder, is there any chance that outbursts and oddness are useful in the current classroom climate?

  • Please tell Darren Deadwood not to feel the least bit bad about crumpling that bill and walking away. That metaphor was more powerful than any lecture or cajoling could have ever been, and it certainly would've shocked my ass into gear as an undergraduate. By refusing to use the opportunity they've *already paid for* in the form of tuition, the students' parents have in effect already done the same thing with their money and student loans anyway. The parties involved just don't know it yet. Better still, DD, walk in this Friday with a clear conscience and an expectation that things will go differently. I'll lay down the next twenty dollars on odds that the scene will be completely changed.

  • You've earned your retirement, so I won't ask you to stay. But in your remaining weeks, please continue to kick ass. You did exactly what that student needed but that none of us have the nerve to do. You probably made a memorable impression on the rest of the group, too. Carry on, Darren! There's sap in you yet.

  • Does RYS create heroes or just report on them? I find myself cheering these folks on, even nuts like Wicked Walter, who I bet is meek as they come in real life. But Darren. Darren walked it last Friday and I wish I had the same kind of courage.