Monday, September 15, 2008

Wherein Dina from Dallas Wonders if Tucumcari Trish Has Really Thought Out All the Dynamics in the Professor / Athlete Axis.

Ok, Tucumari Trisha, I'm with you. Since we're acting like female athletes don't even exist in this conversation, and we're referring to adults as 'kids' which sets my teeth on edge even more than your assumption that you're the only one broad-minded enough amongst us eggheads to take an interest in student athletics, can I just ask a few questions about your strategy here?

First, what one-horse college do you belong to?

Let me tell you about showing an interest in the football boys at my little university. It is impossible for me to attain football tickets by calling the coaches. Any coaches. None would return my call. Two of them make $200,000 more than the president of the university. In order to obtain tickets, the university has internal hierarchies so byzantine that Max Weber couldn't parse the institutional rules for awarding tickets. There's the people who have had season tickets for two decades; the people who have had season tickets for five years but who write big checks to the alumni association; there are the seats reserved for deans sucking up to big potential donors; there are the seats set aside for our little snowflakes; there are tickets that are sold only to particular faculty who have been buying tickets for years but who are allowed to buy only two tickets at a time; there are the tickets that are reserved and sold at the last minute to celebrities who would like be flashed on ESPN. My friend on the faculty who has been a season ticket holder for years sold his two tickets, in a relatively crappy part of the stadium, to last Saturday's game for $500. Each. Selling your football tickets pays better than adjuncting. I'm just saying.

So here's the thing about my football 'kids.' They don't seem to be wanting for attention, mine or anybody else's, really, or validation for what they do. In fact, if I were to note their performance on the field, they wouldn't probably think "oh, cool, my prof respects what I do" because it would be simply another droplet into the Brobdingnagian ocean of attention they receive for what they do on the field.

I'm with you on the basic point; respect what your students do. Fine. I'm all for respecting what other people do, especially if what other people do is healthy and pro-social or at least not harmful. But I'm at odds with your implementation. Which brings up my second question: Why are sports so special in your strategy? So I have nerdy disruptive kid in the class, and I'm supposed to spend my weekend going to comic book conventions and D&D games and Ren Fairs in the hopes of running into him to let him know I 'get' and 'share' his interests and priorities so that we can be friends in class?

I'm sorry, but disruptive behavior is disruptive behavior, and I don't have to spend my weekends chasing around after students in order to prove that I am down with what they do outside of my classroom to get them to respect the class. Whether they chose to respect me or learning is up to them; I will do the best I can to engage them and work with them within limits. But whether they shut their pie-holes and not impede the learning process of the classroom is not up to them; it's not up to how they feel about me or how they feel I feel about them. It's a requirement of staying in my class, let alone passing it.

In my classroom, I have a job, and that job is to help people learn. Even if I don't follow the sports guys around like one of their groupies, I don't walk out in to the middle of the football field and demand they stop what they are doing to calculate the area of a triangle--and neither do their classmates. That's what they are owed in their role as student athletes. And it's what the rest of us are owed as well during class, including the student athletes (and there are many, including football players) who are in classes to learn.

So we've heard the spate of excuses for not controlling the class, ranging from Trisha's "you need to go to the games" to the "oh, I'm such a dainty widdle teacup of a girl at 100 pounds however can I manage these ever-so-big men?" and I'm not convinced by any of it. My 8th grade English teacher weighed 90 pounds soaking wet and we feared her more than death itself. How can that be if it's all about size? She didn't pretend to be interested in Twitter or the X-Files or fencing or football or anything else to make us diagram sentences and behave like civilized people. She demanded we get our heads in the game of English; she owned us for the hour we worked with her. There were consequences for behaving disrespectfully, and those consequences were unpleasant to say the very least.