“No, Professor, You’re Wrong Again!”
Teaching English full time at a local community college for over 40 years had been a wonderful experience—until I stood in front of my last evening class before my June retirement.
The course I was assigned to teach at night was SC-E 100: How to Succeed in College. It was a class designed strictly for first-year students who worked during the day.
But in this class sat Thomas, a student who sat against a side wall, facing everyone with scheming eyes; a student who, for some inexplicable reason, began questioning the validity of nearly every topic I brought up for class discussion by making comments such as:
“Professor, we know why we’re all here. Can we please move on to a more meaningful topic?”
“Professor, we know we should visualize when we read.”
“Professor, we know how to use a textbook’s index.”
While a number of students started telling him to just shut up, I explained to him in class that I was simply following the course’s curriculum. But since his criticisms continued non-stop, when I finally did speak to him in the hallway, I told him that his comments were so annoying that they could possibly ruin his chances of getting letters of recommendation from his future professors, should he ever need such letters.
He definitely did not like what I was inferring, so after mulling things over for a while, he actually agreed to change his behavior.
Yet during the next class he started calling out all over again:
“No, professor, when you write a business letter to a person whom you don’t know, you do not have to start with Dear Sir or Madam. It’s perfectly okay to start with To Whom It May Concern. Everyone I know has done that, and they’ve always gotten a response. Also, Dear Sir or Madam is old fashioned.”
“No, professor, when looking for a job you don’t have to write a formal letter about yourself on a company’s employment web page. All you have to write on the web page is ‘Hey Human Resources’ and then add what you can do for the company, plus the salary you want.”
“No, professor, when going for an interview, you don’t have to wear a suit any more. Some of my friends, wearing everyday street clothes, have been interviewed for positions in large companies requiring extensive knowledge of computers and have gotten those jobs.”
Since I had been unable to correct Thomas’s behavior, I finally decided to just ignore him. He continued criticizing my lessons, and I continued conducting them as if he weren’t even in the room.
Week after week and month after month, that’s the way things remained.
Until the middle of June came with its final exams.
As I distributed the four-page SC-E 100 final to Thomas’s class, he had the gall to suggest that we all get together at a local restaurant afterwards for a farewell dinner.
I told him that I liked the idea, but that I wasn’t interested.
(I really wanted to tell him something else.)