Happy New Year! Now that most of the wrapping paper has been recycled, the ornaments put back in the attic, and Aunt Mable’s fruitcake is almost finished, it’s time to welcome in a brand new fresh-out-of-the-box year. Our ritual ceremony often includes a bunch of empty promises to our families, our doctors, and our ministers. They usually don’t mean that much, but they could. These solemn oaths to reform our ways and change our habits are often abandoned quicker than swing set assembly directions. Like these directions, the pictures on the cardboard box of our intentions are beautiful. But as the fine print under the picture cautions, “some assembly is required.” In the unlikely event that you didn’t get a box of intentions under the tree this year, I would like to offer you some of mine. I found these words and thoughts lying around and put together 10 homemade wishes. They are still a little rough around the edges, but I bet you can make them fit. If there are any parts left over, find some kind of use for them. All I had to go on was the finished picture on the box. Unfortunately, the directions for how to make this stuff work are not included.
“You’re an awesome teacher, and I’ve learned so much from you, and I’ll never forget all you’ve taught me…but I want to change voice teachers.”
Some of the very best, most dedicated applied voice teachers have heard this, or some variation thereof, from a student at one time or another. Caution!!! Do not ask the student, “Why?” because it never turns out well. It only goes downhill from there. Once when I couldn’t believe my ears and dared to ask “Why?” I was told by the “wise beyond his years” student that he “wanted to take from someone who understood the voice better.” Yep. It went downhill fast!
The other day the woman mowing my head with a number 6 clipper asked me where I worked. That’s quite an assumption (I thought) given today’s economy and given she had never seen me before… and given the color of my hair…but I told her. She followed up with a question I’ve heard countless times: “What do you teach?” I responded, as I have countless times: “I teach French.” And, as many others before her, she went on to tell me of her youthful foray into learning an additional language a number of years previous, and of its unsuccessful outcome. “I don’t remember a thing,” she said.
“The teacher is entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject, but he/she should be careful not to introduce into his/her teaching controversial concepts which have no relation to his/her subject.”
- Lee University Faculty Handbook
It is easier to avoid controversies in our classes. It is just not worth the effort, particularly if we are not passionately against a prevailing opinion. I have even less energy to take on such issues if I mostly agree with the position. Like Pat Robertson, I agree that young Earth creationists are embarrassingly wrong, but since I agree with them that we are created by God, it is easier to let them live with their ignorance. After all, I am a psychology professor. I am neither a theology professor nor a geology professor. It is not my problem.
I often hear my colleagues (and I am guilty of this, as well) complain about what our students don’t know. These range from the political—who the Speaker of the House is, for example (it’s John Boehner, just in case you didn’t know, and I’ll admit here I thought it was Mitch McConnell, the minority leader in the Senate)—to disciplinary knowledge—how can they not know who Anthony Trollope is?—to just general information we expect them to have picked up along the way—I simply assumed they knew what countries make up the United Kingdom. We usually blame technology or the educational system or the students themselves for not taking more of an interest in such things. I don’t believe any of those are the cause for students’ lack of such knowledge; instead, I would argue that their ignorance comes from the simple fact that they’re mainly 18-22 years old, that, if we’re honest, we would have to admit that we were no different when we were their age.