Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Does This Make Me….

…a bad person?

After I taught my 8:30 class on Monday morning I had an email from my boss stating that she had received a complaint from a student. In the complaint the student stated I had offended her and made fun of people with disabilities. What?!?! I was gobsmacked and had no idea what the student was talking about. The email asked me to go and talk to my boss at my earliest convenience. Needless to say I hustled my butt up to my boss’ office and we had a little chit-chat.

Can I just say it’s so reassuring and nice when your boss has your back. She asked me about the situations described in the student’s email and I explained that I honestly don’t recall ever saying, “That’s stupid,” when responding to the student state her opinion. Really? I’ve told my students, and truly believe, that their opinions matter – regardless of whether or not I agree with them. They have perspectives, life experiences, and viewpoints I don’t have and approach a subject/topic differently than I do. I respect what they have to say and have often learned and amended my own opinions based on what they’ve expressed in class and in their papers, so hearing that I told a student her opinion was “stupid” shocked me. I honestly don’t believe I would have told her, or anyone, what they thought was stupid. Maybe it came across that way to her, but I sincerely doubt and believe I would have said that.

Additionally the charge of offending my student was addressed. Did I offend the student? Obviously I did, but I didn’t know it. In the class we had a class discussion about a controversial topic and, although the student was a vocal and active participant in the discussion, apparently the topic discussed was offensive to her. In my email to the complaining student expressing my sorrow at offending her, I stated that my intention in the reading(s) on the topic were not to be offensive, but to generate class discussion that made the students think more critically and recognize rhetorical moves the authors of the written documents had utilized in an effort to persuade the reader to agree with them. Occasionally I have to act as the “devil’s advocate” and question what my students state or ask further questions in order to make them think deeper, but on the first day of class I told the students we would discuss controversial topics in order to make them more critical thinkers.

So what was the verdict? I don’t know. The student never responded to my email apology or invitation to come and meet with me so we could talk one-on-one and she dropped my course.

My feelings? Anger, relief, and sadness. Angry because the student felt it necessary to complain to the dean, my boss, and apparently nearly everyone else … but she never took the initiative to discuss her problems and concerns with me. I had to hear her feedback a week later from my boss. Am I bothered that my boss was involved? No, because 1) if that avenue was the one the student felt necessary to bring the incident to my attention, and make the student feel more comfortable, than so be it, and 2) my boss reassured me that what I was doing (after we discussed the topics under complaint) was my job. Her faith in my abilities and my teaching style were appreciated and welcome. Relief because I don’t have to see the student in my class and worry about offending her each time I teach. And sad, that it came to this end. I would have liked to talk to the student face to face, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening.

…a weirdo?

So I’m working on my Masters in English and in talking to another MA English student we found that both of us didn’t know where our cell phones were. Seriously, I thought it was just me. I'm the annoying person who you're lucky to get answer the phone when you're calling. My ringer is always turned off. Not put on vibrate, but turned off. So unless I'm expecting a phone call, please leave a message at the tone and I'll try to return your call as soon as possible. Thank you and have a great day!

I find it ironic that after working at the Lewiston Police Department as an E-9-1-1 calltaker and dispatcher, working in numerous offices as a secretary, assistant, or office manager, and other miscellaneous jobs, that I really don’t like talking on the phone. Can I talk on the phone? Yes. Is it my preferred mode of communication? No. Honestly? I prefer to talk via email, Facebook, texting, or on this blog (if the number of entries are to be believed). Maybe it’s all a part of being an English nerd. The written word rules!

So to answer my question above: Does this make me a weirdo? The answer is unequivocally YES!

P.S. I love you mom and am praying for you!


Chuck said...

I have learned that in this world of PC, too many people are easily offended. It's the society we've raised our kids in and now they don't know how to cope with it. No matter what race/religion/eye color/ hair style/etc you are or have, you will be offended sometime in your life, multiple times, and most of the time it's unintentional. People need to suck it up, grow a pair, etc and get on with life.

Now in all honesty, Patty, unless you're at home and around family, I can't see you saying something's stupid, and even among family, it's all taken in the light it's given. So this student probably had a wild hair up their nose or something that day.

Julie said...

No, you're not a bad person. That student probably realized you were right and was too proud to admit it. So naturaly the mature thing would be to ignore you, your appology, and drop the course. Very mature...for a freshman.

And yes you are a weirdo :)