Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Really, though, I should sell tickets.

My Circus discussion section full of freshmen just spent the last 90 minutes laughing at me. Interspersed with marginally smart things, but still: laughing. They were nodding, too, so maybe they're learning something?

Or maybe I'm just my own low-budget variety show.

Sometimes when I teach, I have this out of body sort of experience. Looking down on myself in my not-too-sensible but especially awesome black stillettos, bouncing around the room, I think: "Oh no. She is a trainwreck."

But, since I've learned in the course of law school to just keep plugging away regardless of the consequences your actions might have on your self esteem, I juggle some chalk and move forward. My students seem to enjoy class, more or less, though I'm not certain if it is because they like the material, or because I've now broken so many pieces of chalk that the next professor in our room brings his own supply.

Before lecture, I always have this neat little outline of what we'll be discussing. I write the main terms on the board (I'm not a big believer in powerpoint), set my little stack of notes on the podium, and begin.

That's when the real trouble starts. You see, sitting in front of the classroom, way down in front, makes me feel a little like a goldfish in a bowl, or a monkey in a cage. So I start getting a little fidgety. I get nervous, so I make completely awkward statements ("...Pretend I'm wearing a hat. I'm not wearing a hat, but I do have really big hair"), and fidget with my clothes a lot. I can't hold still.

Then, what I actually write down and prepare bears very little relation to what actually comes out of my mouth. Today's lecture was on civil rights and civil liberties, mostly from a criminal procedure perspective. Do I professionally deliver competing perspectives, complete with careful analysis?


Do I make old person jokes ("Pen register! It's funny, because it's neither a pen, nor a register!")? Do I use myself/family members/ the most terrified members of the class in every possible inappropriate hypothetical? Do I fall off my high heels and spill coffee on the sleeping kid?

I think you know the answer to that. And then I teach them the finer points of the law, with eloquence:

On online investigations:
"Let's pretend Kelly is sending naked pictures of kids to her friends online....I mean, they're her kids...They're family pictures! In the pool? They're really little?....this is not as inappropriate as it sounds."

On probable cause:
"Let's say that I am a drug dealer, and I get pulled over. There's 30 pounds of cocaine in my trunk.."
(collective skeptical look)
"I'm a very successful drug dealer"

On FISA wiretaps:
"But what if I'm not talking about terrorism? What if it's something minor and boring, like I'm stealing office supplies from my boss?........Oh God, please don't tell Prof. Poli that I'm stealing office supplies from him"

On Material Support:
"So my brother the terrorist...he's the black sheep, we're a drug family."

On Privacy Law and Cell Phones:
"So don't use your cell phones to do your drug deals. You'll totally go to jail........Don't do drugs. Or sell them....Do homework."

This is all involuntary, incidentally. If I was trying to be funny, it would have been a lot more clever. I need to stay in academia, where I can say these things and people give me a pass, because obviously: I'm the awkward professor they don't let out of the house. It's ok.

For a long time, I thought that when professors said hilarious things, it was intentional. With 5 weeks left until the end of the semester, I am starting to appreciate how much being a total spaz plays into their hilarity. Or maybe they really are just laughing at me?

Sometimes, these kids learn things. But sometimes, I stand up there, and I just word-vomit all over them. Then, perplexed, I take off my shoes.

I'm an aging, tenured, vaguely inappropriate professor at heart.


Whitney said...

I would totally buy tickets.

Virgin In The Volcano said...

Sounds like they love you to pieces. Ridiculousness is a good thing. Think of all those uptight, organized lecturers you can't stand. I'd totally take your class.

adele said...

The fastest way to get students to pay attention is to have them waiting to see what vaguely inappropriate thing you'll say next.

I'm sure you're doing fine.

Philosofya said...

I want to be in your class. Right now. And I second what Virgin said, the do sound like they love you to pieces. My crim. proff. is hilarious and I adore him.

All rights reserved to my snotty and generally self-deprecating writing. And if your comments bother me, I'll delete them. That's right, pumpkin.
...How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one's name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!
-- Emily Dickinson