HOW TO SPOT AN ASSHOLE

The best part of teaching, hands down, is reading internet comments in which every jackass on the planet tells you the correct way to do your job. Monday's post provides some really choice examples.

See, the problem is always the teacher to some people; there is no chance it could be – maybe, possibly, in any reality – that an actual problem exists with the modal student. Nope. Teacher's fault. Every time! Isn't that amazing? You'd think that by chance the student population (or their parents, or whatever is under discussion) would be responsible for their own shortcomings once or twice. You'd be wrong.

Everyone thinks they know something about teaching because everyone has been in school. Makes sense. Also, I eat in a lot of restaurants so I am a fucking chef.

Did it ever occur to any of these morons that maybe – maybe – I dump all my frustrations here so that I don't let them show while I'm at work? That I actually do everything but cartwheels in the classroom to try to get them to show any enthusiasm at all for the subject matter? That I leave all of my energy and enthusiasm on the field and when I get home and post here at midnight I'm fucking tired and getting ready to get up and do it all over again?

Did any of these pedantic dipshits consider that if I decided to yield to their expertise and let them do my job that they'd be lucky to get through one day? No, of course not, because the students basically do the job for you as long as you know how to teach. This skill, oddly enough, belongs only to non-teachers.

Did it escape the notice of this brigade of pedagogical superstars that they picked up a habit of blaming teachers from their own academic failures and the need to make every C+ someone else's fault? The system ultimately failed to recognize their brilliance and they're back to set it straight.

In conclusion to the angriest post I've ever written, thanks for your concern but I know how to do my fucking job. I'm actually pretty good at it. The fact that your thought process is so linear and your imaginations and intellects so dull that you conclude that the way someone anonymously blogs about something has given you insight into their personality and habits in the real world would make me even more irritated if I wasn't busy pitying you.

Please describe your profession in the comments and I will get back to you individually telling you how you are doing it wrong.

Eagerly Waiting,
Ed

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129 Responses to “HOW TO SPOT AN ASSHOLE”

  1. Kevin Neuer Says:

    Which is why after one year of teaching I decided the best job I ever had wasn't going to be my life's work after all.

  2. unclemike Says:

    Well, I've been a teacher for over 20 years, Ed, and let me tell you: you're doing fine, sir. Hang in there.

  3. Osric Says:

    Hi Ed, I'm a janitor! I have two (soon to be three) degrees, and I'm still a janitor. I don't have to talk to people or try to teach them anything. So I'm glad you do that for us!

  4. Austin Piech Says:

    I had a friend who had you as a teacher when you were at Big Midwestern University. She thought you were awesome and is the reason I'm reading your blog, as it came highly recommended.

    So based on anecdata of one person, and a consistently awesome blog, I bet you're a great teacher.

  5. Arslan Says:

    I've had my share of "the teacher is always wrong" moments. Solidarity, brother.

  6. Kevin NYC Says:

    Hey Ed! Do you want us to leave snarky comments about how you are a crappy teacher? Cause this is an invitation.

    Please advise…

  7. Graham Says:

    I'm so not telling you what I do.

    I quite like kids, meaning anyone from 0 to 20. Finding a person in that age group actually listening to something I say and actively learning from it is the kind of thrill that makes people take up teaching in the first place.

    It's the most fantastic high, to see a young person go AHA!

    But I could never teach.

    Primary teaching would be emotionally rewarding, but the constant repetition of the most very basic lessons would be intellectually dulling.

    Teaching high school could be very rewarding, if I could just teach to the three kids in the class who were really interested. Unfortunately I would be required to cast my pearls before all manner of uninterested swine, day after day after day.

    Teaching at university sounds better – oh wait. Ed does that, and he finds the same problems there. The institutions who offer the highest possible level of education to the brightest students in the land are full of the uninterested and lazy. Oh no.

    I have no answers.

  8. Ed Says:

    Sometimes they go "AHA!" and I promise you it's never fucking interesting to write about because this isn't Oprah.

  9. Andrew Dahlin Says:

    Hi, I came here to learn how to spot an asshole, as promised by the title. I find the topic interesting but haven't learned anything about it from this post. Is this going to be on the test?
    I'm a software engineer. Pointers appreciated.

  10. jon Says:

    Left my job as a librarian at a prison, which was the most depressing place on Earth. I know how I could have done better, but really didn't give a prairie dog of a shit's worth of effort to it. Because I hated it so much I actually wanted to be fired.

    Instead, I got a job paying $10,000 less as a library assistant in the local public library system. Now I get to do what I love: goof off on the computer and help people figure out how to attach their resumes to emails. And I get to help people find books and information. And watch people complain about our dvd collection. And tell children not to run. And help the old woman get her grocery store gas discount. And help some of the saddest sacks I've ever imagined as they try to fill out online resumes, because there isn't a major corporation around that has paper applications anymore. And get called a "Sorry-Ass White Motherfucker" for telling someone he has to leave if he keeps cursing the computer sign up station. It's an adventure!

  11. blair Says:

    I'm an oilfield pipe bender. Have at it.

  12. RosiesDad Says:

    "I'm actually pretty good at [my job]."

    Yeah, that's what a bunch of your students at UGA said about you on ratemyprofessor. I'm glad you recognize it. And as I said to you in response to another one of these posts months ago, you should focus on teaching to the 10-25% of your students who are there to learn. The others will have to figure it out on their own, at another time.

  13. Jimcat Says:

    I have plenty of teacher friends, they all get hit with this to some degree.

  14. Kevin NYC Says:

    @blair. A real life Bender!!

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fimages2.fanpop.com%2Fimages%2Fphotos%2F3100000%2FBite-my-shiny-metal-a-futurama-3139580-1280-1024.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fanpop.com%2Fclubs%2Ffuturama%2Fimages%2F3139580%2Ftitle%2Fbite-shiny-metal-ass-wallpaper&h=1024&w=1280&tbnid=DJ1c39Q0E5OW5M%3A&zoom=1&docid=T2mgd1IWv_sD8M&ei=xHKRVKfdE8T-yQSG_oK4Aw&tbm=isch&client=tablet-android-barnesnoble&ved=0CCMQMygFMAU&iact=rc&uact=3&page=1&start=0&ndsp=25

  15. sluggo Says:

    Good for you Ed.

  16. Amanda Says:

    I think that people forget it is a job. They remember being in the classroom but they have never seen the preparation, the meetings, or the grading side of it. They also don't understand the energy needed to do it right. It might as well be a one man show that plays 5 times a day, 5 days a week for 10 months. It's acting and comedy and behavior management and parenting and organization all wrapped into what is one of the most under appreciated professions in our society. It sucks to be amazing at something that I hate doing SO MUCH because it's a constant barrage of people telling me I don't know how to do my job (among other things).

    After ten years of it, I'm glad that I'm becoming an accountant. :-)

  17. Anonymouse Says:

    What Amanda said. Also what RosiesDad said.

  18. SimonC Says:

    Hi Ed,
    Love your work. That is all… Except that whole wanting to bear your offspring thing.

  19. cromartie Says:

    You get summers off, man. What's the problem?
    (That's another piece of anonymous criticism that gets very old.)

  20. Binz Says:

    True story: my son didn't get you at a large U in the South. Rather he got a prof who made students regurgitate crap, complete falsehoods, apparently gleaned from Fox News. The experience only served to cement his beliefs about liars and assholes and stupid people.
    Keep teaching them to think critically– you'll be doing a great public service while getting some sweet revenge on assholes.

  21. Robin Says:

    I felt for you as I read some of posts yesterday. You're obviously good for something or else I wouldn't come here every weekday and be pissed on Thursdays when you (usually) don't post. I have observed the phenomenon you wrote about and agree that it is a real and huge problem.

  22. SimonC Says:

    What? So then you want them to think? That's crazy talk!

  23. Dani Alexis Says:

    Oi, yes, this.

    Back when I was still practicing law, no one felt compelled to tell me how to do my job. Now that I teach, everyone feels compelled to tell me how to do my job.

    A surprising percentage of them also feel compelled to tell me how much "easier" my job must be now. I don't even pretend to be gracious about that one – teaching requires more intelligence, flexibility, ingenuity, "people skills," and arguing power than litigation ever required of me. It is far more intricate and difficult to be a teacher than to be a lawyer. I have to be better at everything both jobs require, and I have to do it while having the rules of my "profession" dictated to me by people who have never done my job (instead of by other people who do my job, as in law).

    Practicing law was so easy it wasn't any fun. Teaching has never posed that problem for me.

  24. quixote Says:

    You must be an extraordinary teacher. One time, just one time!, trying to teach the know-it-alls something, and they're gone. Poof. :D

  25. mm Says:

    My take on this is that stupid people don't have a clue how stupid they are and think their advice is equal to the advice of someone who knows what they're doing.

    Smart people realize that there are smarter people out there and maybe they can learn something new.

    I don't understand the logic of underfunding the schools and then complaining about results. The complainers have their education already and don't want to pay for the current generation. When they complain about all the money that teachers are making (which actually isn't all that much) I tell them that the problem is that **YOU** don't make enough money. And who do you want to teach your kids? The guy who used to do the fries at McDonald's?

    I'm also not sure exactly why business would have any clue at all about how to run a school system.

    We once had a K-12 education system that was the envy of the world. We once had a population that thought that education was important. We once had towns that thought it was a matter of civic pride to have a great school system.

    We once had a Republican party that listened to experts.

  26. Kelly Says:

    I have had a lot of teachers who made a difference by just giving a shit. They cared about the subject, about the quality of work expected, and it was obvious. Now that I have friends who teach, and seeing the other side, I realize that those factors make a big difference in their own quality of life.
    As an adult, (don't laugh,) I realize that the same qualities are necessary for myself to succeed and improve my own value as a commodity on the work force, as well as improving my quality of life. I wish I had figured that out as a student or that I could have a chance to go back to school and apply it now.

  27. c u n d gulag Says:

    WAY TO GO AND TELL 'EM, ED!!!

  28. NickT Says:

    I've seen plenty of bad teachers at overrated Ivy with an ugly crimson fetish. Ed ain't remotely a bad teacher. Misanthropic, bitter and twisted, yes, but I don't want to focus just on the positives.

  29. J.D. Says:

    I didn't remember the comments from Monday's post being quite so negative as you portray them, so I went back and took another look.

    In the first 30-35 comments (unfortunately I have a job to do as well), only Carrstone's fits the description, and that comment was immediately shot down by several subsequent comments. So Ed, I sympathize with your point of view, because I know that happens constantly to teachers, but I'm not sure Monday's comment section is a great example.

  30. Hazy Davy Says:

    I'm a professional Internet troll.

    (Go!)

  31. jeneria Says:

    Sometimes it's hard to give a shit when you realize that they don't. My colleagues feel like I rely way too much on popular culture to introduce them to the skills they need (I teach Watchmen in composition, Fight Club in humanities) but you almost have to to inspire any sort of conversation or to get them to write a good paper (which they are all capable of if they put in more than three hours). In my 15 year career, I know I've given up on classes and I don't feel good about it but there's only so much you can do when you're faced with stones. Or, when you get a few who take literally everything you say as liberal propaganda (I once taught Snow Crash and had two take me to task for it's anti-military message which took the form of one secondary character and had virtually little to do with the major plot). Everyday I had to hear about how great the military was and how if it didn't exist I wouldn't have a job. Yeah, I know that. Can we get back to the actual plot of the novel? No. Every. single. day. Even when we weren't discussing that book. Granted, I was a grad student. Now I'd tell them "Thanks for you opinion, it's certainly adding to the discussion but now kindly shut up."

  32. Sock or Muffin? Says:

    I'm a graphic designer. EVERYONE tells me how to do my job.

  33. Edward Says:

    Okay Ed. since you are asking my advice the secret to successful teaching is to grow a large beard. Women unfortunately are at a disadvantage here.

  34. OhPlease Says:

    This criticism isn't people telling you how to do you job, it's responding what you've presenting here. That's what you do, Ed, an academic and blogger: analyze patterns and drawing conclusions. If you consistently present something over 5 years, people will judge you on that.

    Your posts on students are increasingly broad and definitive in their bitterness. You frequently leap from generalized disdain for your students to sweeping conclusions about An Entire Generation of Special Flowers Who Cares Only About Themselves.

    The biggest problem is the definitive tone – "this is how it is and all of them are like that" not "this is how I feel sometimes", hints of empathy or nuance or perspective. An arrogant, foolish student comment is proof that kid is beyond hope and that all of them – hell, the entire generation – may be permanently spoiled brats. You don't need to write "Oprah Moments" just display some hint that you think you can teach them anything. More importantly, that you have the perspective to grasp how being a foolish asshole is part of learning and growing up rather than proof you can dismiss an entire generation as hopeless idiots.

    Or that you and your commenters exhibited some empathy or patience because you too were (or still are) capable of being immature.

    One doesn't have to say students are awesome, just convey a trace of something than utter resignation. Because if you truly do feel this bitter and dismissive then that is your problem. I was raised by teachers and have spent most of my work and social life surrounded by teachers. I hear a lot of frustration, but not blanket dismissals like this:

    "I have come to accept the fact that the students have no interest in the subject matter and no desire to interact with me or their classmates in any meaningful way. I expect that they will sit there and look bored for an hour-plus, and that's usually exactly what I get. Expectations met."

    It doesn't matter what job you have. Announcing that you expect nothing but the worst from the people who are central to doing your job, and they almost always are the worst, is burnout talk. This isn't an "always blame the teacher" attitude, it's a rational response to someone who blames everyone but themselves for hating their job.

    One doesn't have to be a teacher to figure out that, it's likely the problem isn't your students – it's that you have no patience for the inherent difficulties of the job. Most jobs involve contact with people who don't understand and aren't as good at the thing you are being paid to be good at doing. If you take that as proof they are generally inferior, you aren't processing it correctly.

  35. SimonC Says:

    Oh how I relate to that.

  36. blair Says:

    @KevinNYC; its all a misconception. There are no hookers OR beer.

  37. Nan Says:

    What Amanda said. Most people have no clue just how much work teaching involves.

    Also, you never know just what is or is not registering with your students. I'd have days when it felt like the entire class session had been a total waste, and then students would say something when I bumped into them on campus or elsewhere that made it clear they weren't quite as brain dead as they seemed in the classroom. If you're teaching classes (as I did) that are part of a required core curriculum, you know it's going to be a hard slog: the majority of the students don't want to be in the class, they don't see the point of it (I heard a lot of "Why do I have to take this? It has nothing to do with engineering"), and they resent the heck out of the fact that simply paying tuition doesn't guarantee them an A.

  38. ladiesbane Says:

    I've said it before and I'm saying it again: in my new career as a social worker, I meet a lot of people in rough straits, and a huge factor in their chance of successful life improvement is having made a connection with a teacher. It doesn't even have to be a two-way connection, though that's the best. But any teacher who engages the kids is demonstrating interest and care, which they need more than anything. Even the "old kids" skidding the slope from high school to mortgages need this.

    So fuck the haters (or better yet, school them) and keep doing what you do. It's our main chance for improving the world.

  39. Emerson Dameron Says:

    I'm a writer who trades largely in humor. I happily confess to having already bitten a few moves from this blog.

    When one expresses any sort of vulnerability for an anonymous, unaccountable crowd, this is what happens.

    I would *love* to know how carrstone made his first million.

  40. BigHank53 Says:

    I was going to comment on yesterday's thread, but it devolved into teacher-bashing before I could find the time. And since the students have been re-introduced as a topic here, what the hell–here's my thoughts on why they're ignoring modern media culture.

    I think they're just reverting to a much older (and possibly instinctual) cultural model. Network radio is only a century old. Television is only sixty. Mass culture is a very modern invention. Humans used to spend all their time obsessing over what their families or clans or tribes did because (a) that was pretty much all that was going on and (b) individuals were utterly dependent on each other for long-term survival. If you weren't part of a family or tribe or clan your life was going to be pretty short.

    Now, let's examine modern mass culture for a minute. It is almost entirely bullshit. It may be pretty bullshit or funny bullshit or shocking bullshit or entertaining bullshit but that doesn't make it any less bullshit. Kids who are in college right now have always had 600 channels of bullshit on the TV and ClearChannel radio stations playing either the same sixty rap songs or country songs or top 40 songs or classic butt-rock songs and they've always had the endless bullshit funnel of the Web. So they've all gotten a post-grad education in bullshit marketing by the time they were twelve. They can probably detect bullshit in their sleep.

    Let us now turn our gaze upon some institutions that our millennials seem to be ignoring. Kardashians? Bullshit about a rich woman who figured out how to get people to pay to watch her be rich. Musician, sports stars, other celebrities? Same. Politics? It's amazing they can take their donor's dicks out of their mouths long enough to take the oath of office. They've seen their parents' houses foreclosed on by lying scum and nobody was punished. They're living in the permanent recession and going to college because everyone knows you can't get any kind of a job without a degree and nobody believes the bullshit that a college degree will save you from fucking anything any more. They can look at the pictures of glaciers receding and smell the bullshit that our response to climate change is. They can look at a present where having a last name like Clinton or Russert or Bush will get you further ahead than a eight-figure lottery payout.

    They've taken a good look at the Dollar General future, and they've decided that their highest priority is having a bunch of really good friends, and they're probably right.

  41. el mago Says:

    First, @OhPlease, your tag says it all. Who has the attitude here? Second, I taught writing and literature to high school students both rural and urban as well as international and found the experience both rewarding and of course frustrating. However,most of my professional life has been dedicated to the restaurant world–a world that everyone seems to know more about than me. It never occurs to me to tell my mechanic or dentist how to do his job, but everyone with a mouth seems to feel qualified to tell me how I should run my business, or they used to. I no longer cook for the public, nor do I try to interest anyone's child in Beowulf. I'm much happier for it, although truth be told, I miss teaching more than cooking as a profession.

  42. Greg Says:

    Jeneria couldn't you shit them down by reference to Stephenson's deplorable libertarianism? (Although I guess stealing the language is a virus thing from WSB probably didn't exactly settle his conservatard cred).

  43. dybevick Says:

    I have done just enough teaching to say anyone who gives Ed crap is way off base. I also have two teenagers and have to say that BigHank53 is on the right track.

    While they fidget with their phones they really are watching and commenting and socializing about not olny each other but the modern equivalent of "channels" and "shows" liek we used to do — "Hey, did you watch Seinfeld last night" ?

    The difference is that that it is hyper-fractionated and their are way way more channels and the odds that even a plurality of students in the same room are tuned into the same channel are low. The group of people thye are communing with are not always present in the flesh and may never actaully meet. And they do not want to share with us 'olds' wha they are watching lest we stop by and stink the place up.

    One possible hope is to find out what lame or washed up site or meme they are all making fun of. Even though they all watch different things as primary, they are often all making fun of the same things while there.

  44. Major Kong Says:

    My stepdaughter brought home a lawyer she was dating one time.

    At dinner he asked me in all seriousness:

    "Is it really that hard to land a jet? Because I did it in Microsoft Flight Simulator and it seemed pretty easy."

  45. SYSKid Says:

    Ed, I just wanted to let you know that I took two of your classes between 2004-2008 and you were the best teacher I had while I was in college. From crazy facts about former US Presidents to your hatred of all things Henry Rollins, every class was interesting, entertaining and well prepared. I never comment on the site, but I read it everyday and I thought people should know that you do not need anyone's advice on how to teach. You are one of the great teachers that people should aspire to be.

    Keep up the good work and keep posting.

    PS if I could time travel, I would definitely go back in time and attend Pres Jacksons cheese party at the White House.

  46. sluggo Says:

    Someone typing out 1500 words of drivel in the comments section of a blog over the course of two days is how I spot an asshole.

  47. OhPlease Says:

    Ed: What if you were in a conversation and someone said: "It is painfully clear that you are not interested in the slightest in this topic. So please tell me, what would you like to talk about? We can talk about anything." Might not you be reluctant to engage a question phrased this way?

    In the past you have criticized media and conservatives who draw dubious conclusions from loaded situations while avoiding obvious aspects.

    Your previous thesis rests largely on a weak response you got to a question you asked in open frustration. The obvious aspect is angry questions may get hesitant answers. The post ignores this key factor and uses the understandably muted reaction as proof these people you told "are not interested in the slightest" have no interests.

    Point out how this is kind of a self-fulfilling approach is not telling you how to do your job. It's basic common sense – people respond in kind to whatever attitude you give them, often worse. This is not a teaching thing, it's a "what do you expect from action/reaction" thing.

  48. Old Man Says:

    From your blog alone (not this one article) I can tell that you have the intelligence and insight to be an excellent teacher. Every point you made was accurate and probably too truthful to ever get through to those who know how to do your extremely important job, but, for some reason, can't.

    I used to be a Purchasing Agent (Buyer) in a manufacturing environment and was constantly amazed as to how many people were experts in the field but did not work in said field, and most should have been planted–feet up–in a field.

  49. OhPlease Says:

    @el mago If you had a server who said "I expect every customer to barely read the menu, expect special treatment and tip poorly, and that's how it almost always turns out" and you suggested that maybe their own attitude is influencing the situation, or maybe they don't like food service, would "Don't tell me how to do my job" be a valid answer?

    If you wrote on your menu: "It's painfully clear you aren't interested in the hamburgers on this list so just tell me what you want on your burger." and customers chose not to order burgers at all, would it be "telling you how to do your job" to point out that maybe there's a cause and effect.

    More importantly: being able to do a job and having a valid opinion about what your job frustrations prove about humanity are not the same thing. You can teach for years and, apparently, still not make a convincing argument about young people.

  50. MPAVictoria Says:

    I have often thought that the best jobs to have are ones that no one else has a clue about. For example, escalator repairman. No one knows how escalators work. No one is going to hang around, peering over your shoulder and second guessing everything you do. And no one knows how much it should cost to get an escalator fixed!

    So, to summarize, I should have been an escalator repairman.

  51. dybevick Says:

    Or Explosives Ordnance Disposal Specialist

  52. brian Says:

    Both of my parents were secondary teachers. Even worse than the comments on the internet how to do your job, is the mouth breathing self-important school boards who have pure contempt for teachers telling you how to do your job!

    I am not a teacher because both of my parents were. I learned early what a difficult and unappreciated profession it is.

  53. Marc Says:

    OhPlease: have you ever had a job where you felt the need to blow off steam at the end of an annoying day? Are you familiar with concepts like "exaggerating to make a point?" Or "riffing off something I noticed to make a broader point"?

    There are real differences in the skills and attitudes of young people over time. These changes are largely ones tied to the broader culture that they are raised in; contrary to your apparent convictions, sometimes these changes are not all for the good. Put another way: is there anything that would shake your conviction in the essential excellence of all young people and the utter unreasonableness of any criticisms of their culture?

  54. A Says:

    Ditto (G-d I hate myself for even saying that, but…) what Kevin said at 1 f-in a.m.

    I'm now a Civil Servant & am thankful to say that everyday – especially when my college educated pay is compared to that of my fellow working brethern at McDonalds.

    Gin & Tacos – best read on the internet.

  55. J. Dryden Says:

    Like others, I didn't write in yesterday because dear God did I not want to wander into the room of spinning razors that the comments sections quickly became. But, fuck it, here goes:

    While I don't agree with everything s/he's said, OhPlease does have a point I agree with: The scenario you described yesterday set off an alert in my head, based on my own experience with the innate suspicion and hostility of students to an older person who tries to "relate" to them. It is the nature of youth to regard older folks with antagonism–particularly those in positions of authority, and particularly particularly when youth is in the full flush of flexing its muscles of independent identity, which mostly involves rejecting everything they've been told to care about (which is a healthy and necessary process of maturing, even if it often results in a temporarily whiny little shit, as CATCHER IN THE RYE so ably demonstrates.)

    Point is–Being asked what they care about, what they're interested in–that's the kind of question that causes vapor lock in students, particularly if they're asked collectively, because A. they may be paralyzed by too many choices of topic, and B. because fuck you, old man, none of your goddamned business.

    Which isn't to say that my experience teaching hasn't been your own. It has. I think that the instantaneous access to information–tablets and smartphones mean that students don't even have to hold a question in their heads long enough to reach an internet land-line–has diminished the desire to acquire knowledge, much as calculators diminished the desire to learn math. What was once a skill essential to function in life–knowing stuff–has been outsourced to the internet. But just as being innumerate renders us less able to comprehend the implications of numbers (which given the nature of debt, economic trends, etc., we really should possess), the lack of desire to know things outside of our right-in-front-of-us self-interests renders us less capable of thinking. There is no larger picture when we focus solely on the smaller, soon-forgotten nature of pixels.

    Which renders teaching much harder. If students think in terms of knowledge as the immediate satisfaction of small, personal moments of curiosity, then our desire to teach them to think in terms of the larger, the long-term, the profound is just going to run into an absolute wall of cultural gap. How we cope with this gap–emotionally as well as pedagogically–defines us as teachers.

    Me? I motivate by equal parts fear and charm, as well as a complete lack of pretense: I think you need to know this stuff, to think about this stuff–you may disagree, but I am grading you, so I win, if only for these few months. And it works, kinda. My students are terrified of me, which was the sort of thing I would have been repulsed before I started teaching, but which I now embrace because I realized something fundamental when I began to get my sea-legs as a teacher: Memorization is boring (I already knew that part) and Learning is hard. And most people–and most students are most people–do not willingly, happily, or consistently engage in things that are boring and/or hard.

    People who criticize teachers are often either the exceptional students, who resented being taught to as if they were lazy idiots (which, fair enough, totally justified response), or else the ones who just plain hated learning, and think that learning should have been fun and easy, and blame the teachers for failing to make it so. Alas, it is not possible–not past the stage in which blocks of different size, shape, and color could be used to teach spatial orientation.

    Having spewed all of this out, let me add: I completely, COMPLETELY sympathize–and have often empathized–with your emotional state, Ed. Confronted with a classroom that Just. Won't. Engage., I have been driven to real, bone-deep anger–even misanthropy. I still am, sometimes. (Hell, last semester, I couldn't get my students worked up about Shakespeare–that was a first for me, and the first time I worried about professional burn-out.) So I'm there with you, and I think that what you did yesterday–the venting–is the only thing we can do (also, you know, the gym and alcohol and hate-fucking and so on.) I think that we who teach all need to let it out sometimes, and what we let out is invariably some version of "FUCKING KIDS!" (Or, if we're at a university, "FUCKING ADMINISTRATORS!") (Or, if we're at a primary/high school, "FUCKING PARENTS!") (And so on.)

    So, to those who write in to chide Ed for his attitude, his professionalism, his failure to 'get' what Kids Today are All About, allow me to return to an old standby of mine: Shut the fucking fuck up. You don't know what you're talking about. If you did, you'd know that the only teachers who lose it like Ed did, are the ones who care.

  56. J. Dryden Says:

    Apologies for the epic. No respect whatsoever for the tl;dr culture. Who the hell do I think I am?

  57. Captain Blicero Says:

    Holy shit, go Ed. Let's see this anger a little more often.

  58. anotherbozo Says:

    I read most of the comments on the last blog, including the supremely obnoxious, oh-so-superior, presumptuous and outrageously overstated, aka the human stink bomb syndrome in action.

    So today: YESSS!

  59. mothra Says:

    Oh, Please, I note that you have not yet told Ed what your profession is so he can handily tell you how to do it better. Troll, cough, troll much?

    And Ed, I am a paralegal. If I were to tell myself how to do my job better, I'd time travel and tell myself not to become a paralegal. I get to work with those Millenials you are trying to teach. It's not pretty.

    I welcome any suggestions from Oh, Please on how to do my job better and how to coddle those sweet, sweet snowflakes I now have to work with who shouldn't EVER be put on the spot. EVER. Because that's bad and mean and making sweet snowflake think and Mommy and Daddy promised sweet snowflake that things would never be bad and mean and make sweet snowflake think.

  60. Scout Says:

    Luh this. Luh you.

    I am a graphic designer and lots of people think they know how to do that too.

    I COMMEND ANYONE WHO BECOMES A TEACHER. It is absolutely the most underappreciated and underpaid profession while also being one of the most important.

  61. chautauqua Says:

    I certify Class 2 laminar airflow devices according to the dictates of ANSI/NSF 49. A few words of inspiration would be appreciated. Seriously. P.S. I would have you as a Prof in a heartbeat.

  62. Greg Says:

    Thank you J. Dryden for, as usual, covering everything I would have said if I only could.

  63. sluggo Says:

    Oh please put away the brass knuckles, not only is the horse dead, it has been buried.

    @Ed,
    Your bitterness is not a bug, it is a feature. Remember: BITTER IS BETTER!

  64. Major Kong Says:

    "Explosives Ordnance Disposal Specialist"

    Some of the ones in the Air Force had T-shirts that said:

    "If you see me running, try to keep up."

  65. Gerald McGrew Says:

    Ed, your latest post is even more disappointing. If what you say is true, and you're a really energetic, engaging, and effective teacher, then why doesn't that come through in most of your posts about your job? If this blog really is just an emotional dumping ground for all your frustrations and disappointments with teaching, then maybe you should 1) say so before your "these kids today" posts, so there's no misunderstandings among your readers; and 2) expect that readers who only know you through the blog are going to eventually get the impression that you're a bitter, angry professor who holds his students in contempt.

    Please appreciate the fact that for most of us, your posts about your job are all we have to go on, and over the years most of your posts about "today's kids" are pretty negative. Shoot, most of the posts period are pretty negative. You seem to genuinely dislike your town, the university, the people you work for, the students you teach, the country, the media, conservatives, etc.. That's just how you come across ON THIS BLOG.

    I'm perfectly willing to consider that you're not really that way, and are really a very good professor. Just maybe you should reflect that a little more often on this blog. You can't put up negative post after negative post after negative post, and then be shocked….SHOCKED I TELLS YA…when readers conclude you're an unhappy, negative person.

    Don't get me wrong…I generally like your posts. You're very incisive and good at getting important points across. But do they have to be so negative so often? Maybe they do…maybe this is your catharsis. But again, if that's the case then you can't be surprised when some of that negativity gets reflected back at you in the comments.

  66. Mo Says:

    My vote for World's Worst Profession is Economist. You're either a whore for political interests who want you to cook up some fancy rational-sounding excuse for their greed, or you're a cassandra who not only gets ignored by the designer suits but has to suffer the opinions of ignorant dolts who think having a dollar to spend makes them economics geniuses: "It's only common sense!" Plus, you have to watch whole countries and maybe the entire world economy melt down because of stupidity and failure to learn obvious lessons. That must be painful.

    Like teaching, only exponential.

  67. Karl Hall Says:

    If Ed wants to vent, it's his blog and that's his right, but I don't think @OhPlease was, or is, being an asshole. S/he has made a number of worthy points and thought-provoking comments, all in an even tone, and the characterization by Ed is unfair.

  68. anotherbozo Says:

    @Gerald McGrew: This blog is not for everyone. Many readers wouldn't get Ed's humor, understand his bah! humbug demeanor for the therapeutic excercise and misanthropic pose that it really is. Ambrose Bierce, Twain, E.M. Cioran, Dr. Johnson and H.L. Mencken would offend them no end.

    I think those readers should shop elsewhere.

  69. Corwin Says:

    I'm also a professor in Illinois (different field, different university). I have stellar teaching evaluations and one of the campus teaching awards. My students, if I do say so myself, love me. My experience is identical to Ed's. I do not yell, and say, "well, what the fuck ARE you interested in, you little shits?!" But no amount of delicate probing, humorous anecdotes, fascinating theories or anything else is able to conjure any response from them about what they are interested in, BECAUSE THEY ARE NO LONGER INTERESTED IN ANYTHING. I have watched a slow and steady decline, where students used to be engaged and open with many interests, and now they have none.

  70. vegymper Says:

    Being a teacher myself, I can relate to Ed's feelings, and I'm still trying to understand "kids these days". However, with due respect to the commentariat, and of course not wanting to get the first prize in assholery, I personally tend to observe the new generations more as a researcher, with a kind of puzzled wonder rather than judgemental bitterness (oops, almost won the prize here), trying to discover how they are so different to us old folks, with their new prothesis-enabled knowledge processes; it's somehow fascinating, as they will "inherit the world" in a few years from now, while technology keeps re-programming society.

  71. Captain Blicero Says:

    @SYSKid Says: Wait, Ed hates Henry Rollins? Why?

  72. Safety Man! Says:

    I work in Health and Safety (the name was a clue). In addition to the blank-eyed stares and willfull disregard, I have the side benefit that when people don't listen to me they could kill themselves or somebody else. Just once before I die I *will* see "Darwinism" written under "cause of death".

  73. Skipper Says:

    I went to college in the days when people still went for an education. Now, they go to get the ticket that will allegedly get them a better job — or a job at all. (All the time I see idiotic comments about the minimum wage saying that you don't deserve more than $7 an hour if your job doesn't require a college degree. Tell that to my plumber.)

    Colleges have become basically trade schools, and I'm not talking about the for-profit student-debt mills. If a lot of these students could get their "ticket" on the first day of school by paying an extra $500, they would do so. Education be damned.

    I taught back in the '90s, so my experience is dated. In addition to the job-focused motivation, I was struck by their lack of preparation. Many of them couldn't write worth shit, and I had doubts about whether many of them could read. This was in a state college in a blue-collar community.

    I think I was a pretty good teacher. My class was always full, and if anyone dropped out, someone would transfer in from another section immediately. One semester, I actually got applause on the last day of class.

    But I was unprepared for their lack of preparedness. Also, my own academic experience was that teachers never took attendance. Students showed up. If they didn't, there was a reason. And they got the work done. I started out not taking attendance, and pretty soon people stopped coming. So I started taking attendance. It was a long class, and I learned to take attendance twice, because if I didn't, some students wouldn't return after the break.

    Two moments stick out. One was a student who, when she couldn't overcome my questioning of her Fox News talking points, turned her chair to the wall and refused to talk. The other was the student, a graduating senior who, on the last day of class. slammed her book shut and declared, "Now, I'll never have to read another book again."

  74. D.N. Nation Says:

    I work in advertising. Yes, I deserve every bit of scorn you'll give me.

    We're big on ROI. Barring none, programs are canceled and heads roll. Given that you can't get through to the little shits, because the little shits are little shits, what's your solution here? Physical violence?

  75. D.N. Nation Says:

    @Corwin- Same question to you. The students are beyond worthless. Unworthy of your interest and your time. It should be self-evident to everyone breathing.

    So what are you going to *do* about it? They'll be the ones to pull your plug, remember.

  76. skwerlhugger Says:

    Flight Instructor. Never actually get to fly airplanes myself, do some teaching how to fly airplanes, most of the craft of the job is as an applied psychologist. It's interesting right up until they try to kill somebody, sometimes you. At least you don't have that, snipers in clock towers notwithstanding. So cheer up. And you get paid more.

  77. Major Kong Says:

    @skwerlhugger

    My first assignment in the Air Force was instructing in T-38s. I logged many an hour sitting in the back seat while people hurled my body at the ground at 500 knots.

    It's the only USAF assignment where your adversary is IN the cockpit with you.

  78. Gerald McGrew Says:

    @Anotherbozo,

    Like I said, I like this blog. Ed's a very good blogger. I also absolutely love the works of H.L. Mencken, but relevant to this discussion, I never came away from Mencken's dispatches from Dayton, TN thinking that he really liked and respected the people there. And in the same way, I don't come away from G&T thinking that Ed genuinely likes and respects his university, the city he lives in, or the students he teaches.

  79. Mo Says:

    I went to college in the days when people still went for an education.

    geez, Skipper, when was that? And on what planet?

  80. jharp Says:

    I am in the trading business.

    And pretty much anyone can do it. As long as you have good communication skills and are willing to do your homework.

  81. Safety Man! Says:

    @Major Kong

    Well done sir, best thing I've read all day. I will be sharing that with my friends who were former ground crews.

  82. fasteddie Says:

    Yes, the asshole is easy to spot.

  83. ChicagoMike Says:

    legal interpreter

    Love, love, LOVE that no one tells me how to do it, instead they just HOPE I really am as good as it all sounds. Yes, one key to life is to have a job that people really do not understand.

    My boss asked me once if he thought we needed a second interpreter in my language. Are you kidding? I made sure I got everything done every day, and there is still only one of me here.

    P.S. The kids (even the best students, often) know they are lazy most of the time in class, and the fact that Ed knows it is NOT losing him points with them.

  84. Champs mom Says:

    Dear Ed, I'm retired. But for a half-second I was a teacher at the juvenile detention facility in a major American city. My first day on the job (and things got better from there) I made the mistake of writing on the blackboard thus turning my back on the students. When I turned around, 17 pencils were stuck in one 12×12 ceiling tile above my head. I still don't know how they did this but they got my attention! I learned how to write backwards, toot sweet. Keep doing what you're doing, ok to vent, I love your blog, please don't stop.

  85. grondo Says:

    Having gone to college a bit late (age 24 as a freshman) my observation then and since has been that college freshmen essentially treat their first year as a sort of 13th Grade, with all the adolescent, high-school drama and BS one would expect from that.

  86. bad Jim Says:

    Larry Moran has a couple of recent posts about student evaluations (for which he has a low regard) which made me recall a lament by a young professor that he hadn't actually been trained to teach, since the emphasis in post-graduate education was on research.

    This is perhaps lamentable, but it follows that students are likewise unable to evaluate their teachers' performance. The more junior they are, the fewer teachers they've encountered, the less informed their judgment.

    I'd say it's a poor student who blames his teachers. "Teaching" isn't actually a transitive process by which one party infuses a possibly unwilling recipient with knowledge.

  87. eau Says:

    Alternate title: How To Troll a Teacher/Blogger To Maximum Effect

  88. RosiesDad Says:

    @major kong: I've flown in monoplanes with friends and relatives who were pilots and so I have a small amount of appreciation for how skillful you need to be to operate in real time in 3 dimensions. I've also had lots of fun playing with Flight Simulator.

    That said, when I am a commercial passenger, I never think anything about the pilots other than how skillful they must be to do what they do routinely to the point where they make it seem easy. That, sir, is expertise.

  89. hoosierpoli Says:

    First time I've ever seen Ed rattled by trolls. Not a great sign.

  90. BubbaDave Says:

    I think the reason people try to tell teachers their job is that I'm an expert on what teachers could have done to teach *me* better. (I've known me for decades, know all my buttons to push, know my favorite books and historical interests and and and….) From there it's a small (mis-)step to assuming I'm also an expert on what teachers could do to teach everyone.

  91. Skipper Says:

    Ed, the interesting thing is that the comments here are, for the most part, sane and well-thought out. It's one of the reasons I come here. There are other sites that I don't go to because reading the comments is depressing. I bailed on Huffington Post years ago. And never, ever read the comments on news stories on newspaper sites. That is like swimming in a cesspool — that's been condemned.

  92. OhPlease Says:

    I second most of what Gerald McGrew said, but I think all of Ed's posts aren't negative and in most it's exceedingly clear when he's using hyperbole and how much he believes what he's venting about.

    But the posts about students have gotten uglier over time. 5 years ago, he ranted with fewer sweeping generalizations, the annoyance was mostly at specific students or habits. It was tempered with sympathy at the conditions they faced. There was a hint of recognition that people grow out of youthful callowness. Now it's broad dismissals of an entire generation with what seems like genuine scorn for almost every students.

    These posts affect the comments, which take on a reactionary kids these days tone no different than a Fox News or Tea Party blog. It's depressing to read smug "this generation is the worst " comments from the people who previously complained about how others dismissed their generation.

    It bothers me because Ed frequently rants about the lazy, biased thinking and rhetorical fallacies that lead people to embrace right wing politics against their own interests.

    Generational scorn thing is that – hating on kids who are essentially no different than you were supports reactionary politics.

    It's feeds into the "undeserving poor/unemployed aren't trying hard enough" stuff. It lets one look directly at youth filled and led movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Anti-Cop protests and other signs of deep youthful intelligence and still spout dumb right wing talk radio cliches about how kids know and care about nothing.

    It lets one overlook the economy and pretend kids can't get jobs because they are too shallow and spoiled to deserve them.

    It lets people channel their discontent with things in general, or their own aging disappointment, onto an easy target which largely isn't responsible. It also lets people who have difficulty dealing with younger people put all the blame on them, rather than sharing it.

    Ed can do better. Everyone can do better.

  93. Dan Says:

    Joining the party *really* late here. Based on one, single, not-very-applicable data point, I guess I agree with the folks saying the kids have interests they're not telling you.

    I asked my 16 year-old son about this last night at dinner. He's completely obsessed with soccer (like he can name you third division Italian teams and identified the one famous Georgian footballer), but also quite interested in European history and world literature (his favorite authors are Kafka and Gogol).

    He told me there's no way he would talk about any of that if a teacher asked him to talk about his interests. And he finds it equally impossible that Ed's students don't actually have interests and that any of them would be willing to discuss those interests.

    So . . . caveats: He's only 16. We're a horrifically geeky family. But still. I wonder if Ed met these students as people over a couple of drinks he'd find out there are all sorts of things that excite them.

    Also, my son pointed out that there's nothing wrong with talking to your friends about themselves and yourself. That's what friends do; that's how you know they're your friends.

  94. Jado Says:

    I'm a fire protection engineer. And there is nothing you can tell me about how I am doing my job wrong that hasn't been told to me by the installers who desperately try to create, in real life out of steel pipe, what I draw on a computer with lines and circles made of electrons.

    I have a simple job – think of everything and get it all right the first time. I have done that approximately once on 25 years of engineering.

    Nothing you can say is worse than reality. I get smacked in the face every day by my own inadequacy, but that specific streak of masochism is what makes an engineer, so here I am.

    Good luck with the critique.

  95. OhPlease Says:

    Several years of mentioning something with sweeping disdain and little else lacks the subtext of blowing off steam about something one enjoys.

    I suspect Ed didn't recognize the cumulative impression of what he was writing. Maybe he does now, but not he's acting as if this criticism is just people telling him how to do his job.

    5 years ago, Ed's teaching rants were worded to indicated he still thought he was teaching the students something. Now there's years of discontented posts that often say they have no interest and do no work – with no hint he doesn't really believe this.

    Imagine if this was a cop, doctor or social worker blog that only mentioned the job and specific groups of people with broadly dismissive frustration. Would it not be reasonable to question whether someone with this attitude should have authority over groups with less power? Would it not be reasonable to say, "If you don't want us to think you hate group or thing x, there should be more context?"

  96. Barry Says:

    blair Says:

    "I'm an oilfield pipe bender. Have at it."

    Well, if you'd just bend the pipes the way that John Henry and Paul Bunyon did it, by hand, we wouldn't have gone bankrupt buying those bending robots, who are stealing everything in sight…….

  97. Barry Says:

    Major Kong:

    "Is it really that hard to land a jet? Because I did it in Microsoft Flight Simulator and it seemed pretty easy."

    And I'm willing to be a good pitcher of beer that what he did was learn how to land it without crashing half the time, on the 'easy' setting, with the weather set to 'clear skies and no wind'.

  98. Barry Says:

    chautauqua Says:

    "I certify Class 2 laminar airflow devices according to the dictates of ANSI/NSF 49. A few words of inspiration would be appreciated. Seriously. P.S. I would have you as a Prof in a heartbeat."

    To start with, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and become a Class 1 laminator, or even a master laminator. Only n000bz are Class 2 loozerz.

  99. Barry Says:

    Gerald McGrew Says:

    "Ed, your latest post is even more disappointing. If what you say is true, and you're a really energetic, engaging, and effective teacher, then why doesn't that come through in most of your posts about your job?"

    If you actually read his post, above, you'd know.

  100. Brutus Says:

    The responses to this post and the previous puzzle me. They break down to essentially three categories: (1) blame the students, parents, and/or society, (2) blame the teachers, or the most confounding, (3) students are largely the same as they ever were, nothing to see, move along. Few seem to believe that there is something going on here worthy of attention though difficult to recognize.

    Those who have an even modest longitudinal view will know of or remember the 1983 report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform, which warned of sliding educational standards and student achievement, as well as Allan Bloom’s 1987 educational diatribe The Closing of the American Mind, which placed blame squarely on the shoulders of higher ed (which then filters down to secondary and primary levels). Since then, nothing has stopped our long, slow slide past mediocrity. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports, U.S. student achievement in science and reading today are just below the OECD average for the world, whereas math literacy ranks below average. Hidden in there is a large swath of Americans who are functionally illiterate and are thus not full participants in democratic institutions.

    http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=1

    Indeed, program after reform after boondoggle have done little to alter the downward trajectory, and many initiatives (computer-assisted instruction, distance learning, charter schools, standardized testing, etc.) are straight-up frauds that have enriched corporations while distracting educators from various tried-and-true methods of instruction (yes, the old German scholastic model).

    However, none of this interests me as much as how cognition has been transformed by changes in the information environment around us. Adults over 40 are less affected than students under 20. The effect is difficult to recognize and describe, but researchers and social critics have begun to take aim, saying essentially that differences in the way young people are now trained to think are analogous to the wholesale differences in how we all now conduct business. Adults over 40 adjusted gradually, retaining some of the old ways; students under 20 have never known a different way. Write a letter and post it? Pay cash? Look something up in a book? Have face-to-face conversations uninterrupted by blinky-linky electronic distractions? Preposterous!

    There is IMO certainly NOT “nothing going on here,” and scapegoating is pointless when recognizing the problem isn’t even yet on the map. Apologies for the late and overlong comment.

  101. Barry Says:

    D.N. Nation Says:

    "I work in advertising. Yes, I deserve every bit of scorn you'll give me.

    We're big on ROI. Barring none, programs are canceled and heads roll. Given that you can't get through to the little shits, because the little shits are little shits, what's your solution here? Physical violence?"

    You're trying to sell things based on fun, sex, greed, fear, etc. That's the easier part of the world of persuasion and education.

  102. John Says:

    While Oh, Please, may have a (partial and poorly stated) point, that doesn't mean the his/her presentation was not that of an asshole.

    Sound guy. You know, the one who gets to listen to all the old fucks telling him how much better the sound was at (Woodstock/Altamont/The Greek/etc) ad nauseum. And I'm 57.

  103. Khaled Says:

    I'm only a year older than Ed, and I can recall during my time at college when the discussion sections (how UMich broke down the big lectures in intro classes- 1 or 2 sections a week with 3 big lectures) were silent. The discussion in one of my intro history classes was literally the TA and I having a conversation about the Magna Carta. I know no one else in the room gave a fat shit about it, but I did. And I went on to become a history major- go figure. And yeah, my Russian Lit classes were full of people who really cared and really enjoyed the material. I'm sure most of upper level classes were full of people who actually cared about the material.

    The problem Ed is running into is that his Midwestern Liberal Arts University is full of wealthy suburban kids, who view college as a means to an end- a time to fuck, smoke pot, drink a lot and get a degree so that they can go get a real job in Chicago or St Louis or Indianapolis. 30% are in the greek system, which seems rather high, so the priorities of the students are not for an "education" but a degree, which are very, very different things. Average income ACT score is 26? University of Iowa has a higher average than that, esp. for out of state students. Kids go to Midwestern Liberal Arts College because they want to be close to Chicago and can't get into Northwestern or couldn't or didn't want to go to the local good state schools. The cost is $40k a year? Yeah, some kid working part time from Chicago ain't going there.

    Unlike a lot of the commentators, I've spent a large amount of time managing and employing high school and college kids, and I've noticed that they don't care. A lot of the better kids come from lower income areas- they are grateful for the chance to work and work hard. Many rich suburban kids (from families that can afford $40k a year college) are ungrateful spoiled brats who have had the world handed to them by their parents, and really think that the world owes them crap because of their wealth. It's not only the 'hood rats that think that the are entitled to stuff.

    I worked retail management for 15 years, 9 of those as the store manager of Chain Drug Store, usually in "urban" stores. I've been told how to do my job by customers for years, from parents of high school kids who work for me, etc. I'm glad I'm changing careers. What a bunch of crap.

  104. Frank in midtown Says:

    I build statistically sound salesforecasting models for retail stores that have been used to deploy billions of dollars in assets and everyone is an expert at what I do despite their not having a clue. You can't move a store just to prove an a-hole wrong.
    "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." T Roosevelt.

  105. Amused Says:

    I am a lawyer, Ed. You are more than welcome to tell me how I'm doing my job wrong, if you need to blow off steam. People who have absolutely no idea about jurisprudence, never touched a law book and never read a single case, condescendingly lecture me on how to do my job and casually demean my profession on a daily basis. I mean, not only do we lawyers have horns and hooves and drown cute puppies while laughing maniacally, but we are also idiots who don't understand law, while everyone who hasn't got a law degree is freakin' Blackstone. Give me your best shot. I've become desensitized to this nonsense years ago.

    P.S.: As one of my professors — another idiot lawyer who doesn't understand law, naturally — once remarked, the most unpleasant thing about any profession is the people who make that profession necessary. Food for thought.

  106. John Danley Says:

    Try being a therapist for people who have been mandated to attend therapy due to county, state, and federal probation. It's a real fucking hoot.

  107. Mo Says:

    Anybody got some good quotes from Robert Sapolsky on full myelination of the PFC (prefrontal cortex)?

  108. Older Says:

    I've been reading all this with great interest. I'm retired now (kinda), but for most of my working life, I was a mail carrier. No doubt a lot of people thought they knew better than I how I should do my job, but the only one to actually say so was one of the local Crazy Persons. He was only One, but he was annoying enough for Several, at least.

    I've been lucky. I have been a teacher, a delivery person for non-government agencies, a statistician, a seamstress, and a few other things as well. For the most part, I've had it easy (oh, there were those fools who wanted a custom fitted shirt/dress/whatever, but were way too busy to come for fittings).

    I think the real secret is for people not to know what it is that you do. That's hard to manage for people on the front lines, like teachers. I think being inscrutable, or not scrutable by dummies, has saved me a lot of personal unpleasantness over the years.

  109. Chicagojon Says:

    I was an awesome teacher's assistant to 0-3 year olds but I couldn't handle the pressure. Now I'm a consumer electronics project manager. Same job really…

    My mother taught English for ~35 years and if I had to guess she had 20-30% of kids that were reading/writing at grade level. Screw all the haters – teaching has always been underappreciated.

  110. what the karp?!? Says:

    I'm a phlebotomist.

    I've worked in foodsevicea number of years before become a phlrbotomist, and I've always found it alarming how much less people are cocerned about their healthcare than they are their food at a restaurant. blindly taking pills with no idea what they do and such.

  111. Anonymouse Says:

    I'm in IT, but once a month I teach a half-day class on the Content Management System we're using for the system users to input and manipulate their data. My classes consist of people who have to be there to learn to do their job–they're motivated to learn. They're mostly focused, but then again, they're only with me for four hours and then they're out on their own.

    I'm also a program manager for my company, which means I get to do the technical interviews for people who you would THINK want to be hired. I've been doing this for 10 years, and what I've found is the better employee is one that wants to be there. We can teach the tech, but we can't teach work ethic. If someone saunters in a half-hour late and whips out the cell to check their Facebook or start texting in the middle of the interview, they're not going to make a great employee. If they've got six months of experience but demand six figures because they're just such a special, special snowflake, they're always aghast that HR doesn't agree they're worth what they've been led to believe they're worth.

  112. schmitt trigger Says:

    Two points:
    1) This blog is great. Ignore the trolls and continue the way you are.

    2) Many professions get blamed. My late father in law was a surgeon. Several times he was accused of being a murderer and afterwards sued by relatives of the deceased. Even though they had signed consent forms where the surgery risks were very clearly spelled out, and he had spent considerable time explaining the more arcane risks.
    Although there is medical malpractice, no doctor worth its title is not rattled by a patient's death.

  113. ms. ann thrope Says:

    @ OhPlease: are you Ed's father?

    I'm a forester and everyone knows my job, because they once drove around a National Forest, or they saw a program about trees on the Discovery channel.

  114. Jeff Says:

    Ed, I would like to say that I took your class on the American Presidency at Big Midwestern University 8 years ago, and I can still explain Marbury vs. Madison because of your lecture on it (can still picture the Family Guy characters as stand-ins for the people involved, in fact — Stewie was Thomas Jefferson). I remember many classes in that hall by other professor that were never as consistently attended by so many despite not taking attendance.

    You were, hands down, the most innovative and charismatic lecturer I had at BMU, and was pleasantly surprised when I found out about the blog.

  115. Tim Says:

    Ed, there are two types of people who criticize teachers. The first type are people who have never taught and thus have essentially no idea what the burden is like or really what the job actually entails. The other type are teachers, who criticize not because they think other teachers are "the problem" but because being critical is the only positive thing to do–it's not like you can change who you get as a student but you can sure as hell change how you interact with them.

    Good luck out there.

  116. moderateindy Says:

    I know how to do my fucking job. I'm actually pretty good at it…………….Says pretty much every person that is crappy at their job.

    While I believe that kids and parents are the main reason that kids fail in school, I doubt that there are many teachers that suck, that actually think that there is any problem on their end of the equation.

  117. Pete Says:

    For what it's worth: when I was in university, I felt that the professors were there to provide a little guidance about main sources and organizing thoughts. If the professor was good or excellent in the classroom, great but I didn't expect it. Mostly, though, since I was a working class kid trying to get undergraduate and graduate degrees, I felt the onus was on me. I almost never felt bored because I mostly chose courses I was interested in. And that's key. I think the primary responsibility for getting an education and enjoying the process is with the student. If the student isn't motivated, isn't interested, etc. then that student really should not be in the classroom. That student should go off and find something else to do with his/her life. Simple as that. Higher education is for adults.

  118. Luther Siler Says:

    I've been teaching for thirteen years, and I have an anonymous blog too. I frequently blog about my job. I frequently say terrible, bitter-sounding things about my kids on my blog. I've had responses in comments that were very much like the ones you describe.

    I've also occasionally posted about the good moments. About actually being able to *help* a kid once in a while, or a connection, or a lesson that went right. I think people who read my blog regularly know why I work in schools.

    I read your blog regularly. I have no goddamn idea why you teach. At all. If that makes me an asshole, I can live with it.

  119. Southern Beale Says:

    "Please describe your profession in the comments and I will get back to you individually telling you how you are doing it wrong."

    Ha. I'm a teacher too. Hilarious.

    But I'm still at that point where I feel like if a student fails, it's my fault.

    I teach English to adult refugees. Most of them are from Burma or Iraq, every now and then I get a student from Somalia or Sudan. They desperately need English to navigate this strange new world they live in. They are desperate for jobs and most of them have crap jobs at places like the Tyson chicken plant where they don't earn anything close to a living wage. They work shifts with crap hours, like until 3 am. And my class is at 10 am. And still they show up. They've done their homework. They amaze me.

    So yes, if they aren't learning, I feel like it's my fault, because these are the most motivated people you will ever meet in your life.

  120. Anonymouse Says:

    @Southern Beale; I taught English to non-speakers when I was in college, and I found the same thing you did. The students were there to learn. No whining they were boooooored, no attitudes.

  121. Interrobang Says:

    I'm a currently-unemployed software technical writer, thanks to $Former_Employer in its infinite wisdom (you may know them as a very large IT company best recognised for its network hardware) decided that my position was going bye-bye.

    The best part about talking to people about my job is that most people have no idea what a technical writer even is, let alone what we do, so most people don't tell me how to do my job. When I explained help authoring to a Catholic priest once (at a funeral), he blessed me for it. I'm not Catholic.

    As a profession, we're definitely underappreciated, but mostly by the corporations that (temporarily) employ us. Am I bitter about this? You bet.

  122. Redleg Says:

    Chin up, sport. I feel for you. I have been a professor for 13 years now and can related to much of what you wrote. It seems to me, and to some of my colleagues, that many students ARE less engaged and less attentive in the classroom, and efforts to get them more engaged often meet with mediocre results. I try to bring as much enthusiasm, humor, and relevance (yes, relevance!) into my classes as I can and to tell you the truth, while it paid off a few years ago, now it's diminishing returns.

    And the worst thing is that I can come in to class having a plan, optimism, and enthusiasm and after about a half hour of watching students not responding to questions and paying more attention to their cellphones than what you're trying to help them learn, the wind gets sucked out of my sails and my energy starts to drain away. Jeebus.

    On the other hand, my classes with non-traditional, somewhat older students are much more engaging, interesting, and enjoyable for all of us. Summer courses also tend to be better, for one reason or another. Anyway, I thought I would try to provide some social support for a fellow educator. We can use all the help we can get since there are so many assholes out there who think they know what it's like to teach.

  123. JohnR Says:

    I'm sorry. You have no right to get so many comments on a blog post if you're not calling for gun control. Also, teaching is easy, so what's the problem. Merry Christmas!

  124. Robert Says:

    Something I read years ago that has stuck with me – if you're getting to know someone or just chatting at a party, ask what they do for a living. No matter what it is, look mildly impressed and say, 'That sounds hard.' Nobody thinks their job is easy, because very few jobs are. It gives them a reason to trust you. Then they can talk about landing jets, cleaning crime scenes or milking bulls for semen, knowing you're not one of those putzen who think every job but theirs is easy.

    I worked my entire career at one job – at the Prosthetic department of the local VA hospital. Just about every 'customer' was a disabled veteran. It definitely kept me thinking that my own life wasn't too tough; if that guy who's been a quadriplegic since Khe Sanh could get up and get dressed this morning, well heck, so can I. One of my proudest moments? A younger veteran was dying of [redacted], and playing guitar was just about the only pleasure he had left. Then he had a morphine pump surgically implanted in his gut, and the magnet in the guitar was screwing with the pump. Nobody knew how to fix the problem – but I figured it out. He was almost embarrassingly grateful. I will remember that as long as I remember anything.

  125. Paul Says:

    Ed,
    I've been at the teaching racket for over 27 years in higher education and yes it is a really thankless job at times. I don't have any visionary insight to give you other than I have enjoyed your blogging immensely and true to form, I spotted several assholes in this comments section. My favorite are the passive/aggressive versions that type miles of bullshit because apparently a long comment really is a thoughtful comment. Keep up the good work Ed and don't let them get you down. You're normal and I hope the best for you, Paul

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