Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Upon Further Analysis, I May Not Be a "Hep Cat" But Perhaps Instead a "Jive Turkey"

Easily my favorite Skinner monologues, and quite possibly one of my favorite bits in the entire run of the show, is when he's trying to track down a school-skipping Bart. While Bart is arguing his way into an R-rated movie, Skinner is checking all of the places he thinks a young child skipping school would go, and the scene cuts back and forth between these two shots:

Principal Skinner has decided to walk around town to see if he can find
our delinquent young friend.

   Skinner: If I were a truant boy out for a good time, I'd be right
            here: the Springfield Natural History Museum.  [chuckles]
            You're mine, Simpson.
             [Bart argues at a triple-R rated movie box office]
      Bart: Look, if I was under seventeen, I'd be in school, right?
Ticket boy: Yeah, I guess you're right.  Enjoy "Boobarama", sir.
             [Skinner has left the museum, meanwhile]
   Skinner: Why, there are no children here at the four-H club, either!
            Am I so out of touch...?  No, it's the children who are

I just got my teaching evaluations back from the course I taught this spring. For the most part, they were pretty routine; mostly good, a few standard complaints (why don't you put your lecture notes online, I'm a big baby who can't be bothered to take notes), a few "you were the best teacher I've ever had" (seriously, I'm now at over 2 dozen of those, not that I'm keeping track, that would be tacky), one bad review, etc. Again, pretty standard stuff.

But two common threads in this last crop of evaluations are new ones I've never seen before, and they are equal parts baffling and scary, yet for entirely different reasons.

The first thread was that people liked me because I'm young and come up with relevant examples that reflect their life (seriously, sometimes I think these comments are auto-generated from the blurbs on the back of textbooks). Now, I've already covered in this space how the kids these days find me "young" and "hip,"but this is the first time I've ever had anyone, let alone multiple students, write something about me being young in my evals, even though this was, by definition, the oldest I've ever been while teaching.

I'm sure a large part of this has to do with the fact that I still look like I'm 15, but that doesn't really explain why it came up this semester. Maybe it's because this was an intro class and most of the students were first-years and had assumed all their professors would be elderly? I really have no idea why all of a sudden my youth is apparently a selling point to students, and I'm not really sure it's a compliment my students see me as young and relatable. I always strive for more of an "angry and unapproachable" vibe, mostly to keep students from e-mailing me too much.

The other, far more disturbing, common thread in these evaluations was for the first time ever I had multiple students say the Simpsons are getting too outdated to play in class. I have never had a student complain about the Simpsons, and usually have many who are glad it was played. And sure, there were still several pro-Simpsons comments this year, but there were at least 4 or 5 students who thought they were too old. Gah!

So, ironically in the first semester I'm ever referred to as young, I feel older than ever. In fact, I feel like this allows me to pinpoint the exact moment when I began to lose touch. I mean, I have no idea what will replace the Simpsons in my lectures, and I'm not about to start paying attention to youth culture.

Oh well. At least I have written confirmation of a time when I was considered an instructor students could relate to and enjoy in class. 10 years from now when all of my student reviews say "this weird old guy just kept referencing some tv show none of us have ever heard of," I can rest assured it is the children who are wrong.

1 comment:

Bdiggs said...

This is interesting because now I'm thinking about how you are starting to teach an audience that is "different" than you, and it's only going to get more different as the years wear on... I wonder how that is different than my kind of teaching, where I never have a single student that is from my "culture." I learn just enough about them that I can make references that I know will entertain them, but they are only entertained because the references are incongruous to my appearance and cultural background. Like the other day when I was showing them how to do Google Maps and I put the starting point as our school and the destination as El Nuevo Rodeo. The students started laughing and they were like, "You don't hang out there!" And I was like, "Well, I am going to start hanging out there!" And they were like, "No. Just... no." So I guess I acknowledge our differences and I make fun of it. Haha you might have to start making fun of yourself as old in order to connect with the students. Acceptance!