Day 63: Break a world record.Posted: March 4, 2011
This was easier than I expected.
My students were supposed to bring a 1,000-word draft of their essays to class today. It was on the syllabus. They’d brought 750-word draftlets on Wednesday. We’ve already been through this process once, with their last papers.
But, because I had failed to remind them, nobody came prepared. Some didn’t show up at all.
The only thing on the agenda for today was a paper workshop; I was going to address problems they were having with their thesis statements, with organization, with appropriate use and integration of quotations from their sources. Next week, class is canceled on Monday and Wednesday so I can do individual conferences with them; the paper is due on Friday. There was no point in doing something unrelated to the paper in class today. I was – perhaps foolishly – unprepared to do something unrelated, in any case.
Well, I couldn’t just let them leave – what sort of message would that have sent? “If we all come unprepared, we get the day off?!” They’d never come prepared again. No, I had to do something – but what?
I couldn’t berate them; I’m not a 900-lb gorilla, I can’t throw a tantrum and scare them straight. They’d laugh at me, and they’d be right to do so, because I’d look ridiculous. More than that, profs who get blustery and angry and talk to their students as though said students were children – those profs aren’t respected, and any respect I’d earned before such an outburst would be lost after it.
I couldn’t send them away, and I couldn’t lose my temper at them, and I had come without a back-up plan, and I was too tired and my head too full of Faust to make something up on the spot. I had no options.
So: I sat on my desk and stared at them. I didn’t say anything; I just stared. I used the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once. They didn’t say anything, either: they just sat there, looking sheepish, trying to surreptitiously text under their desks, which just got them more stares. Fifty minutes I sat there, staring at them, and then I picked up my notebook and left.
Longest awkward silence ever.