Did you, by any chance, see the movie "All That Jazz"? In the opening sequence, Roy Scheider, who plays the lead character based on director/choreographer Bob Fosse, starts his day. After he gets up, he goes through morning ablutions--he puts on a classical music tape, puts eyedrops in his eyes, downs a glass of Alka-seltzer, opens a bottle of amphetamines, pops a couple, slaps his cheeks, then opens his eyes wide looking in the mirror and pronounces "It's show time!"
Well, folks, it's show time. In less than a week, classes resume at my community college. For the past several weeks, I have been poring over textbooks, once again retooling my course. I don't quite know why I do this--I could practically teach this course with my eyes (and textbooks) closed. But I don't. Every so often, I try to reconfigure the basic approach to the course.
Partly, I do this to keep the material fresh for me, but also I do this because the students deserve to have an instructor who is fully engaged with her material.
You might think this is only appropriate--and what every instructor would do. And you would be wrong if you thought that.
I have heard stories to the contrary. Three instances come to mind.
First, several years ago, as I walked down the hall of the building where I teach, I passed a classroom. The professor holding class was using an overheard projector, and had a PURPLE copy of a document projecting on the screen. So, you ask. Well, purple copies can only mean one thing. The document had to be at least 30 years old, produced by a spirit duplicator process long abandoned. If the document was so good, why on earth not have it retyped by word processing and printed anew? I'll let you draw your own conclusion as to why.
Second, I have been told of a professor who tends to do his course introduction by showing a video tape of himself giving the course intro. OK. But, this particular video was made when he first started teaching, more than 30 years ago. He even jokes to current classes about how young he looked then. Really! Wow. I am speechless--how can a course NOT change in 30 years?
Finally, a student I know remarked that the professor she had for a course, that included using maps, had outdated maps. How did the student know? The maps featured the OLD names for countries. And, no, this was not a history course where knowing that once a place was called Asia Minor, and is now called Turkey. Or once this area was part of the Ottoman Empire and is now independent. This was a course about current issues. Yet the professor used outdated maps. When that fact was called to his attention, his response was to be hostile to the student who had pointed this out. You would think that a course on current issues would NEED to have CURRENT material, wouldn't you?
Now, before any of you thinks this post is a rant against tenured faculty, let me stop you. I am wholeheartedly in favor of tenure. Education needs to be independent of the political whims that toss public thinking back and forth. A teacher in the classroom should not be bullied by a parent who happens to sit on the school board, or who might belong to the same country club as the college president, or who may have more money to give to the college than someone else. A teacher should not be harassed because she belongs to a particular political party.
But I do fault fellow faculty for being lazy, or insufficiently devoted to their chosen profession that they do not do all they can to give students a quality education.
Next week, I will open my eyes, blink a couple of times , eschew the pills Bob Fosse used, and head to the classroom. I will announce my name, inform students this is English Comp, in case they have wandered into the wrong classroom, and the show will begin.