Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Car Wreck Pedagogy.

Two days ago I got a panicked call from the husband of one of my colleagues. My colleague had been side-swiped by another car on her way home from school. The car was nearly totalled, but luckily my colleague only suffered minor injuries, bruised ribs, and a strained shoulder. But she needed me to cover her classes the next day.

I went to her classroom, saw the usual muddle of drooling and blank freshmen and went to the front.

"Are you a sub?" one guy shouted out.

"Yeah, are you like a part-timer? We don't have to listen to part-timers." Then he laughed.

"Your teacher, Dr. CarWreckLady had a bad accident yesterday," I started.

"Yeah!" two kids in the back shouted, and then - unthinkably - did a high five.

"She got hurt in the accident," I said, just absolutely stunned at the now-smiling faces. "She won't be here today."

One girl up front said, "Is she okay?" but most of the rest were packing their books up and getting ready to leave.

"Yes, she'll be fine in a few days, but - WHERE ARE YOU GOING?"

One student with his backpack already on said, "Well if she's not here, why do we have to be here?"

"Yeah," another one said. "I got up early for class, and if she's not coming to class why should I?"
I rubbed my eyes as if I were sleeping and having some sort of nightmare.

"Sit down," I said, in what I'd call my "outside" voice. They were starting to get it, I think.

Once they had quieted down I started my colleague's lesson, and over the course of the hour they looked a bit more sheepish - at least I hope.

At the end of class I said, "I may be here on Thursday, too, and I'll be taking attendance and doing Dr. CarWreckLady's normal schedule."

They slowly left class, and more than a few stopped by my desk to tell me they were sorry and that they hoped their prof was going to feel better soon.
"Could I send her an email, you think?" one student said.

"Yes," I said. "That'd be nice."