NPF: THE HALLS OF KNOWLEDGE

I recently changed jobs, and now I ply my trade at a smaller, private, teaching-oriented university. This is a culture shock, having spent my academic career (if it can be so labeled) at massive, research-oriented state institutions. Not only is teaching the subject of zero shits given at such places, but the tenure process (and faculty culture) actively discourages putting any effort whatsoever into teaching. So if you were curious, kids, that's why all of your classes at State U. are terrible.

This is not to say that I find myself in an idyllic paradise of outstanding pedagogy; in fact there is good and bad teaching to be found here just like anywhere else. However, it is noticeable how much more teaching is talked about here. It is a thing people actually think about and attempt to do well, even if unsuccessful. Talking about teaching leads to one of the real perks of academia: the teaching Horror Story.

It has been a while since I did one of these crowdsourced NPFs, so this one is all on you. I could tell you my stories, and in fact I occasionally do in the odd post, but where's the fun in that? What's the worst (hopefully in the amusing sense, not in the "One of my classmates shot someone" sense) thing you've ever experienced in a classroom setting? Who's the worst teacher you ever endured and why? There is no right or wrong way to approach this question. You can mine your life experiences for anything from preschool to grad school. I'm sure you have some sordid tales of amazingly inept teaching. Let's get a nice blooper reel going here.

And…go.

Be Sociable, Share!

78 Responses to “NPF: THE HALLS OF KNOWLEDGE”

  1. Eric S Says:

    Two instances come to mind.

    First was in a Mainframe programming class. On a programming assignment all the students in the class were using the same, master input datasets. We were just learning the proper methods of referencing datasets on the MF and one of the students deleted the master file. Obviously other students could no longer reference the dataset. In the next class the professor decided to make it a "teaching moment." He called out the student and spent the better part of 10 minutes berating him in class.

    Second was an Art Appreciation class. It met a basic requirement for a semester of fine art study. The first class we were told to find a seat we would be in for the rest of the semester and that was recorded on a master seating chart. Each class TAs would come around and mark if your seat was occupied. For every class missed after the second absence you lost one grade level. On the very first day the professor even suggested if we were going to miss a class to have a friend show up and sit in the seat. Every day after that he put on an 1:15 slide show and lectured with no student input. Besides attendance the grade in the class was based on the midterm and the final. Now this is why everyone took the class. He had been giving the same two tests for the class for years and everyone, I mean everyone, had the answers. As his TAs were handing out the midterms he told the class "Some of you underclassmen are going to notice that there are some very fast test takers. Just take your time and don't worry about the people turning in the test after 5 minutes." The tests were over 100 questions long. You couldn't read them in 5 minutes much less actually write down answers. He was giving everyone permission to cheat.

  2. Tom Bloodgood Says:

    In 10th grade, I had Chemistry I. The teacher was retiring and a student teacher taught the second semester of the class. She was middle eastern or Indian. At the end of every sentence, she would say "Right?" An example: "Water is 2 Hydrogens and an Oxygen, right?" *pause* "So you write it like H2O, right?". In one class period she said that word over 80 times and then we stopped counting. Another strange thing she did is assign questions from the book. If you didn't copy the answer straight from the text, she marked you down. All of my other classes wante dthe answers in my own words. Lastly, in the lab, she would mark points off if your results weren't almost exactly the same as hers. I'm talking like measurements and results. Within a gram or a degree. I didn't do well that semester, but I did well enough to pass the class due to the first semester.

  3. renrph Says:

    My 6th grade teacher taught us that Isaac Newton invented, yes, invented gravity. And thank Goodness he did or we would all be floating around in space. No lie.

  4. Jhombi R Says:

    I have a similar 6th grade story to renrph. I had to explain to our 7th grade "science" teacher that no, if you were going at the speed of light and fired a gun the bullet wouldn't go 1200 fps faster, it wouldn't go anywhere. Time dilation, you know. That and that infinite mass problem. At twelve I was demonstrably better read than any of the teachers in my junior/senior high. Not a startospheric bar by any means btw.

    I also was retaliatorily failed out of a freshman year college Radio & Television program for drawing the inside card (10 of Hearts)on a King high Straight Flush in Seven Card Stud. We were on a field trip to 30 Rock in 1985(?) from Herkimer County Community College in upstate NY.

    The instructor ( I won't call him a Professor) got a little poker game going in the hotel after all the tours and sightseeing. I figured he'd been rooking students this way for a few years. I was going back to school @ 24, and had faced better cardplayers out there in the 'real world'. The guy was a prick, and a smug player. Funny thing was I bet it all up to drive out the other guys, and him, but no one quit. I had nothing til the last down card.

    Best hand I ever won. Got my FCC Radio license & left that depressed, crappy area with no regrets.

  5. Fezzik Says:

    My first grade teacher was competent, but had a rule at the time (now illegal) that if you asked to use the bathroom during class time, you would be penalized five minutes of recess. As a 7 year old and a goodie two shoes, I didn't want to get in trouble, so when one day nature called, I held it. Finally, I got up to hand in an assignment, and simply could not hold it any longer, pissing myself right in front of her desk, leaving a huge yellow puddle on the tile floor—but with no direct witnesses and the fact that I was wearing stone wash jeans (and therefore the wetness was not obvious), I thought I got away with it. I sat down and about 15 seconds later I heard her yell, "Gaaaah! Who did this?!" Sadly, my best friend betrayed me.

    Most of my university profs and TA's were very good, actually, but there was one old duffer emeritus who taught "Voice and Articulation" who knew his stuff, but spent most of his class time bragging about giving voice lessons to celebrities back in the 50's and 60's, all while leering at the female undergrads and constantly saying cluelessly sexist things.

  6. J. Dryden Says:

    My "worst teacher ever" story is, I'm sorry to say, a story I can't tell. Literally–I don't know what the story is, but I know that it happened, and I know that *I* was the teacher.

    I was assigned (not by choice, I might add), by the first college to hire me out of grad school, to teach a mid-level course in Women's Literature. Since my area of specialty is Renaissance Lit, an era in which the prevailing attitude was "Bwa-hah-hah, women can't *spell*, much less *write*!", I had little experience in the subject. But, fuck it, whatever, I gave them what I knew: Austen, the Brontes, Woolf, Morrison–I covered the gamut.

    My students were, to a man (wink), female. The only guy in the room was the one teaching the material. To say I got very skeptical stares from Day One would be putting it mildly.

    But guess what? I won them over, so much so that the college quietly arranged for me never to teach the class again, because–I kid you not–three of my students collectively informed me that as a result of this class, they'd decided to switch majors to Women's Studies, which our teeny li'l college did not offer, so they were all transferring to the nearest UW campus.

    My reviews from that group of 28 women were among the most devastatingly flattering I've ever received.

    But.

    But there was one. No idea which one she was–it was a small class, and everyone participated, and no one gave off any signs of bad juju. And all she wrote, after giving me the lowest of all possible marks in every category, was the comment: "The worst teacher I have ever had on any subject."

    I was that woman's worst–I would be the one she'd be writing about in this thread.

    And I have NO IDEA what I did that was so awful–so consistently, misery-inducingly awful–that I was her worst. This was several years ago, and I'm still re-running lectures in my head from that class, trying to figure out what happened–where I went so right with so many, and so wrong with one.

    I really would like to know her story…

  7. Ellie Says:

    My college freshman English teacher (visiting professor of English; required class with assigned sections) had…something wrong with him. Something really, really wrong.

    By "something wrong", I mean mentally not-right. Like a personality disorder (or two), or maybe a mental illness. Or quite possibly both. I also strongly suspect that he did not actually earn the degree he was supposed to have. He not only had a lack of knowledge about English literature and composition, but also demonstrated a near-total lack of knowledge about basic English written grammar. And he appeared to be a compulsive liar. Also, mean. And crazy.

    It would take too much space to get into all the details of his insane behavior and jaw-dropping ignorance of the subject matter, but trust me – it was bad.

    He also played favorites. I was not one of his favorites. In fact, I was the opposite of "favorite". You know how in dysfunctional families, one kid is sometimes made the

  8. Ellie Says:

    well, here's the REST of the comment that got cut off – I hope:

    He also played favorites. I was not one of his favorites. In fact, I was the opposite of "favorite". You know how in dysfunctional families, one kid is sometimes made the “scapegoat”? It’s usually the kid who has the BEST grasp of just how fucked up things actually are. I was a stellar English student. I knew exactly HOW incompetent this guy was. I didn’t laugh at his jokes. I pointed out contradictions in things he said. I questioned both his (lack of) knowledge and his grandiose tales about himself. When he told me a compund sentence I had written was a "run-on", I promptly said "no, it's not, look!" and diagramed it for him to prove him wrong. (Yeah, I was kind of a snot – but he was major prick. Also, an idiot.)

    It all came to a head sometime in November, when he verbally attacked me in class, and I fought back – then stormed out and went straight to the dean to file a complaint that can be summed up as "my freshman English professor is incompetent, insane, and persecuting me because I know he's incompetent!" I was not believed at first….until I refused to back down and made a big enough stink (working my way up the administrative food chain) that an investigation was conducted.

    After the investigation, I received apologies from the dean’s office AND the head of the English department (the former was rather stiff, the latter seemed quite genuine), and was moved to another section. I was, however, strongly warned to keep my mouth shut about the whole incident – which was deemed “strictly confidential”, of course. The professor in question kept his job for the rest of the year (under closer departmental supervision, as I understand it) but was not rehired the following year.

    I was later told by the department chair (in confidence, of course) that yes, the guy was incompetent – they’d figured that much out! – and that he (the chair) did in fact suspect that the prof-in-question might have forged his credentials – but that the school has decided “not to pursue to matter.” The prof-from-hell subsequently dropped of the face of the earth – there is no record of him in Google or the academic databases. Professionally, it's like he never existed.

    In retrospect, I'd guess the guy may have had some combo of narcissistic personality disorder, as well as some sort of delusional and/or paranoia issues. And I’m pretty sure he faked his PhD in some way (if he did “earn” it, I imagine someone else did the work for him). Yet this crazy, incompetent, student-abuser got a gig at a highly-respected, selective institution. How do these things HAPPEN?

    Worst. teacher. EVER.

  9. Mike N. Says:

    First, J. Dryden, I've been there. I've taught a class that was widely enjoyed, but I received one truly bad review. That's still the one I fixate on, 4+ years later.

    Fortunately, I'm sure the worst teacher in my life is not me, but a nearing the end of the line "teacher" from 8th grade, who taught Study Skills. To give you an idea of the esteem the public school district had for him, he held his "class" in the junior high cafeteria. The "study skills" he taught consisted of such challenging tasks as ordering the alphabet from 1 to 26 and arranging words like "bank" "banana" and "banjo" in correct order. Without even a chalkboard, he didn't really teach, he just talked about . . . crap, I can't remember one thing he talked about unless it was about our behavior, which was awful, and who he liked and who he didn't. He was either very dumb or wrapped in the onset of senility.

    We did things like throw superballs around the cafeteria when he turned his back, but he could somehow never catch us. But he gave me a "C" in his class not because I didn't know the alphabet, but because the class should have been called "Behavior as Graded by Someone Who Has No Business Being in a Classroom." Needless to say it was my only C.

  10. ilse Says:

    I had a comp. lit professor who would walk in and read out loud to us the same two passages that had been assigned for homework (sometimes taking up 45-50 minutes of a 75-minute class). She would then look up at the class, say, "Compare and discuss," and leave. Of course, attendance was required (and it was a small enough class – maybe 30 students – that it was clear when someone was not there). She did this twice a week (T/Th), for 14 weeks. The exceptions were the first class, during which she read us the entire syllabus and course expectations, along with a brief description of every writing piece we'd read, and the last class, the final exam, which was, in essence, "Tell me in detail about one of the discussions you had while I wasn't there."

    Most of my other "horror stories" involve me being a bright but utterly lazy and apathetic college student.

    One of my guiding principals as a teacher — lofty a goal as this may be — is to never be part a horror story for one of my students to tell.

  11. mbl Says:

    My freshman year Algebra teacher was also a proponent of the "rearrange the class after every test" method, always in strict grade order, ignoring things like whether kids could actually see the board from where they were sitting. He'd also have a couple of days at the end of the semester where you could come in and retake a test if you'd done poorly on it.

    Except the tests he used were from another book series, not the same test, so that it would be "fair." And the other book series didn't necessarily cover things in the same order as our book series, so you might ask for a retake for Chapter Four and get something completely different from what you'd studied for.

    The truly odd thing? Only a couple of us figured this out, and got odd looks for throwing our tests away rather than handing them in on our way out the door. The rest of the kids turned them in, got lower grades, and then griped about how hard the retests were. They weren't hard! They were just over the wrong material!

    Bad teacher, weird class. My only D in high school.

  12. BamaBerg Says:

    Public school in Alabama abounds with great tales:

    My 8th grade social studies teacher (male) kept a score for "dumb" comments between the blondes and the brunettes, and yes we learned all about how the Civil War was only about states rights.

    My math teacher (female) informed us that it was disgraceful that a woman was running for governor because God did not intend women to be leaders.

    And health class, forget abstinence only education, we had no sex ed.
    Completely ignored the subject, instead we got Maslow's Hierarchy of needs and the three sides of the personal-development triangle (physical, intellectual, and social, if you were wondering). Very helpful.

  13. Shane Says:

    I went to College at a school that will accept anyone and touts itself as a career college. They brag that their faculty were activley working in the field that they were teaching. Translation, the faculty all had full time day jobs and very little time to commit to the courses that they were teaching.
    I had an accounting class that started in March and had a brand new textbook. The instructor right out of the gate complained about how busy she had been due to it being tax season at her sole proprietorship accounting business. She then cracked the new textbook open for what I assume is the first time and began reading p. 1 to us and writing the key points down on the dry erase board. There was a steady stream of students heading out the door after about a half hour. I lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

  14. Adiaphora Says:

    Two stories, both related to arts.

    First was in high-school. Took a "Digital Arts" class back in 02'. The comp lab was new to the school, so the teachers assigned for the classes within, Digital Arts being one, were fresh. I had this lady who, for what I could gather, had zero experience using any of the programs she was set to teach us. She read to us step-by-step projects out of a "How To Use Corel Draw For Dummies" style book for the duration of the class, sometimes. The class devolved into a free period where everyone simply surfed the internet and gave no fucks. I would have liked to have taken away at least a basic understanding of Photoshop and Flash, of which I got neither from the class. Complete waste.

    Second story was while I was in a CalState system university for my BFA. I took a Typography class (which I later ended up not needing) with one of the worst professors I've ever encountered. I'm pretty lax when it comes to questionable teaching, but there was nothing redeeming about this guy. From the start he came off as really smug, having been in the commercial illustration/design industry for years, taught at high-end art colleges, blah blah blah. Spent a lot of his time telling us horror stories about how thankful we should be that he's not the kind of prof that rips students projects off the wall and throws them out the window. For as much as he demanded us to be organized, he was never prepared when class started.

    The absolute worst was his insistence on using our Type and Font resource book as our main source for our typography projects, as opposed to just, opening up Adobe Illustrator and dicking around for a few minutes. What this means is, if you needed to get let's say a few letters like S, H, I and T, in Baskerville font at a particular size, you'd have to drag your book to the nearest copy machine (and/or scanner with an oversize printer) and trial & error for a while as you print page after page of sample letters in various sizes, trace them, quickly ink them, and hope it works with the design you're making, otherwise it's back to trial & error stage. Alternatively, you could get exactly what you need with no trial and error in Adobe Illustrator in less than a minute, without wasting money and materials making test prints. He didn't give us access to the comps with Illustrator, which were in the same fucking classroom, and he'd mark us down if he found evidence that we used Illustrator to create our designs. It's the equivalent of not being allowed to use the internet as a resource when citing works, it's that inhibiting. No contemporary design firm would use this methodology. As the semester was winding down, his teaching methods were holding back the class with his archaic guidelines, so he finally allowed us to use Illustrator at the very end.

    On the last day, we had a potluck when we turned in our final portfolios for the class. He managed to spill cola over roughly half the class's portfolios. I felt bad for the Graphic Design and Illustration majors, who didn't have a choice but to deal with him for a few classes, as he was the only one teaching some of the required core classes.

    All that aside, I have been fortunate enough to have a good ratio of awesome profs, a fair amount of 'okay' ones, and very few terrible ones.

  15. Hurpdurp Says:

    Ok, I know I'm really late, but since someone else brought up the issue of religious school I'll share a story from the one year I went to a private, evangelical Christian school. They had a very peculiar form of punishment at this school, which can be termed "the paragraph." The paragraph was just that, a paragraph on a piece of copy paper, which would would have to copy onto normal paper. Naturally, if you got the paragraph you wouldn't get to just copy it one time and be done with it. It was basically like the old punishment you see Bart Simpson doing at the beginning of every episode, but you're copying this paragraph instead of one sentence. Usually you were put in this little room near the principal's office until you wrote all the paragraphs you needed. You wouldn't be allowed to write them at home as homework.

    Naturally I can't remember the words of the paragraph verbatim, but it began with something like: "I am an important and unique individual. Jesus lives in me!" The Jesus part is verbatim. In the middle there is something about how you need to behave correctly at all times and then it ends with something about how you're an asset to your classmates or something along those lines.

    One time I had to write 100 of those. No, there's no extra 0 there.

  16. Hinterstoisser Says:

    I will never forget my American Literature teacher. He taught the honors class, which had been getting progressively smaller as stories of his conduct had spread around amongst the students. The most infamous tale was of the students coming into the room one day to find the tables rearranged. "I'll bet you're wondering why the tables are rearranged." He told the students, who by then had learned better than to ask such things. "It's because the temptation to look up the girl's skirts was growing too great."
    By the time I got around to taking his class, he had a policy that all students had to have lunch with him in his office, once a term. He couldn't care less if the men did, but he checked up on all the women and when they were having lunch with him he would take pictures of them and then show off the pictures in class the next week. His favorite thing to do in class (when he wasn't giving one of his bizarre lectures) was to find all the explicit sex scenes and ask someone to read them aloud. That someone was always female. He would then ask them to explain any metaphors to the class. When everyone pretended to have no idea what those metaphors were for, he would explain them himself.
    His lectures were always perplexing. My mother didn't believe that he was quite as crazy as I told her until Mother's Day, which was when the school allowed parents to sit in on their children's classes. He gave a lecture on "Virgins as an Energy Source" with enough chalkboard diagrams and arrows to confuse Glenn Beck. After that it became a running joke in the family. Of course, there was another class when some parents walked in and he immediately stopped talking and started reading random passages out of the book until they left. He then commented "I always have to be careful around student's mothers". His family also owned the school (it was a private school), which meant he couldn't be fired.

  17. What The Karp!?! Says:

    I had a Medical Terminology terminology teacher a couple years back who handed out crossword puzzles and find-a-words for homework. The reproductive system unit was hilarious, but I don't know how finding words like "testicular torsion," "vagina," and "penis" were helping me learn medical terminology, those are some of my favorite words anyway! In one homework assignment, she asked us to define "phrenopathy," which is an obsolete term for disease of the mind. The only mention of the word phrenic made by our textbook was in relation to the diaphragm, so we all wrote down that phrenopathy was a disease of the diaphragm, and all got it wrong. This teacher said that a green stick fracture was a fracture where the bone protruded through the skin. The bone may protrude, but that's not the definition, that is more likely in a compound fracture. I would sit and take notes in class and just contradict everything she said.

  18. Greydog Says:

    Not a funny story, but a man who affected my life.
    My freshman English teacher was a small man, maybe 5' 6" or 8". In class he was the absent minded professor, although some of us eventually discovered that that was a persona he adopted as a teaching tool. He would come to class after lunch with a paper napkin tucked in his belt, and leave it there for the whole hour unless someone pointed it out. He frequently stood in front of the class, apparently lost in thought for half a minute (his timing was perfect) and then suddenly appeared to wake up, point a a particular student, and ask a personal question that seemed irrelevant, but wasn't.
    "Mr. Smith, how do you feel about trains?" "Miss Jones, have you ever been tempted?"
    He spoke softly, and was the kindest and by far the smartest teacher I ever had. At the same time, he was not to be messed with, or baffled with BS. Clever students wanted to do well in his classes.
    Later, an administrator told me that Dr. Pfeil (not his real name, but it was a German name, and he spoke fluent German.) had been an infantryman. He fought in North Africa, landed at Omaha beach, fought all the way across Europe and had been seriously wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. Probably one of the few to survive that long and intense a history.
    (I just realized that the story sounds like "Saving Private Ryan," but this was in the 1960s, long before the movie.)
    When I was a graduate student, and he was my unofficial mentor, I got brave one evening (aided by alcohol) and asked his if the story was true.
    "Yes," he said, "but I don't think about it much. Did you fix your housing problem?"

  19. Mo Says:

    Everyone saw Corey Robin's latest, yes?

    "Why do people hate teachers unions? Because they hate teachers."

    Pretty much cuts through the rhetorical crap, doesn't it.

  20. Robert Says:

    I was a history major at UC Berkeley. A good friend of mine (English major) persuaded me to take an English class on the modern novel. Two problems – I had not taken an English class in college before, and this was actually upper division. The instructor was a tall, bearded old professor, who had been doing this for a long time. During one office h our, I confessed to him that I had no idea what I was doing. Apparently misled by my facility with spoken English, he assured me that everything was fine, and to proceed as I had been.
    After the midterms were graded and handed back, I noticed there was no grade on my paper. He asked to see me in the hall. With what I can only describe as a shit-eating grin, he confessed that I had been right, and had no idea what I was doing. Since it was too late to drop the class, he promised me that if I kept coming to class and 'doing' the asssignments, he would guarantee me a C. He seemed both apologetic and embarassed.

    Don't think I'll ever forget that moment.

  21. Amused Says:

    @Major Kong:

    I went through Air Force pilot training in 1984 under what we called the "Fear, sarcasm and ridicule" method of instruction.

    Sounds like law school.

  22. E* Says:

    Sigh… I am probably the TA that most of you are talking about. In grad school I was assigned to teach five times with no preparation and no natural skills to boot. I tried by best, but I feel bad for my poor students. But that's why college-level teaching can be so bad. People do it because they have to do it, not necessarily because they have any particular inclination, skill, or training to teach. (Though some are excellent, of course.)

    On the receiving end: I had a friend from grad school who signed up for a course that met for three hours once a week. When he arrived on the first day, he realized he was the only person who had signed up. The professor proceeded to lecture from the blackboard for 1.5 hours (no discussion, just lecture) to my poor friend, then said, "It's time for a break. This class will be canceled because not enough people signed up. So do you want to just call it a day, or come back for the remainder of the class?" My friend took that opportunity to bow out.

    On the good side: I had a professor spend the first 20 minutes of a class on pre-historic demographics talking about the merits of anal suppositories. He made several well-reasoned arguments (among them, "If you all were serious about getting drunk, you'd bypass the stomach and take your alcohol anally"), and I remember it fondly as my favorite lecture during my undergraduate years.

  23. Michael Says:

    Teachers that stand out:

    — Adjunct professor, getting paid about $75 total to teach a semester course, with zero command of spoken or written English. Apparently he taught a lot of you too!

    — Computer science professor, horrible combination of incompetence and extreme arrogance. He would lock the door to his class ten minutes before the scheduled start time to encourage students to be on time. Spent most of the class leering at the females.

    — Calculus professor, believed himself to be extremely smart and therefore would not deign to teach anything about the material except in a single run-through, as fast as possible. There was no going back, no restatements or recaps. Anyone who asked a question was denigrated (and the question not answered). He was doing this in part so that he could end his class a month early and take a vacation in his home country. He did this every year – race through the class, end class early, depart for his home country.

    — Physics professor, senile. Had long ago given up grading materials and therefore graded assignments by heft. Thin = C. Thick = A. Students discovered this and started stapling a lot of blank pages into the middle of the lab work they were handing in – guaranteed A's.

  24. momo Says:

    My 5th grade teacher. The first day of class, her first day teaching at our school, she put a math problem on the board. When none of us could do it, she yelled and said, "I know you went over this last year, you know how to do it!" To the point where she asked each kid individually if we remembered doing this work last year. Every one said no. So she stormed out of the room yelling, "This is covered in 4th grade! I know you went over this already!" to get the 4th grade teacher to confirm that we had indeed gone over it. She didn't get the confirmation, because we had NOT learned it yet (I don't even remember what the specific type of problem was). She didn't even apologize for blatantly calling students liars. We should have known then that she was the bitch from hell. I had forgotten my homework for my morning class one day, which was tantamount to treason in her book. My punishment? When I asked to go to the bathroom after lunch, she refused. She continued refusing to let me leave the classroom to the point that I peed my pants. As a 5th grader, I don't need to tell you the level of humiliation that brings. THEN, when my mother sent in a note asking to speak with her, this woman didn't even open the envelope, because my mother had written "Miss M_____". Being the super-feminist she was, the teacher crossed out the "Miss", wrote "MS." above it, and handed it back to me to give to my mother unopened. You couldn't write a better "evil teacher" character.

  25. Nate Says:

    My intro into philosophy prof in my second semester sophmore year class was pretty amazing. He came to class with a little stuffed gorilla called "Mr. Wedgewood". Mr. Wedgewood would adopt whatever philosophical idea for the day was and my professor dissected all the pros and cons of each or sometimes just ramble on with ancient philosophical stories. I forget if "Mr. Wedgewood" had a higher pitched voice or not.

    Sorta crazy, but actually really brilliant. I miss that class. It was lots of fun, I still have the notes. :)

    I really liked the majority of my high school teachers too and high school in general. I'm odd in that respect.

  26. Graham Says:

    My high school was a reservation for delinquent teachers: there was the cigar smoking, XJ6 driving (1971) lesbian headmistress who hated children; the cross-eyed paedophile science teacher (spotted years later at 10.00 at night squatting on a city pavement beside a paper boy); the mother/daughter art teacher duo in adjoining rooms who were batshit crazy with the world's biggest Electra Complexes; the cretinous ex-beauty pageant winner English teacher married to a gay footballer and who was subsequently fucking a science master (not the ped); the woodwork teacher who saw himself as an amateur counsellor but who broke the confidences of those who spoke to him.

    The only nice person on staff was straight out of teachers college, and she broke her leg on her honeymoon, leading to weeks of campus giggling.

    University was better: for the first time in my life adults spoke to me like an adult, and I thrived. My favourite teacher (of Anthropology), a man I liked and respected, had had to spend some time in hospital being treated for the infection he contracted getting a full initiation into Australian Aboriginal manhood – a ritual that entails massive penis mutilation.

    Apart from that I'm alright, thanks.

  27. Nate Says:

    Another great teacher stories I have was when I was a junior in high school, in a small waspy town in the northern midwest. First day of classes, my American History teacher had injured himself some how the previous day during football practice (he was also the assistant football coach) and was sort of loopy from the meds prescribed for him. He took attendance and was giggling to himself at points through role call. He gets to me and calls me Nathan, and then stops and asks me if I preferred Nathan or Nate. I said (as I do to this day), "Whatever floats your boat." He cracked up and recorded my name for the attendance sheet. Flash forward to two weeks later, during role call, and he comes to my name and looks confused for a second and then calls me "Nate". I said, "Here" and he said he was wondering why he had scrawled "Boat" in quotes by my name.

    He also graded presentations on celerity and substance, rather than research or presentational length. One of my friends gave a 15 minute presentation on early submarine technology (complete with slideshow!). He got a D, my other friend stood up in front of the class gave a short speech about the subject he had chosen and after the 3 minute minumum said, "I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have." There wasn't one and he got a B. The "D" and the "B" were friends in my nerd clique. "D" fumed about it for weeks and "B" couldn't stop laughing.. for weeks. I got a B as well, even though I stuttered and stumbled through my speech, it was short, informative and to the point.

  28. kudz Says:

    Hate to burst your bubble, but as the product of two public R1 universities (three if you count my freshman year at another), I have to say that overall I had excellent teachers at all of them. I'm currently teaching at yet another large public university – though not R1 – and pedagogy here is kind of a Big F'ing Deal. Perhaps it'd be different if I were on the tenure-track, I don't know.