THEREâ€™S THIS FEELING you get right after school starts. The sort of feeling that you get when you hear good things about a professor, that his class is entertaining. That his class is useful. That his class gets out early.
Above all, that his class is easy.
Imagine all these feelings as a balloon of bliss and joy â€” never mind the relationship between bliss and ignorance.
They broke up last spring, when bliss dumped her boyfriend for apathy.
The difference between them? I donâ€™t know and I really donâ€™t care.
Nonetheless, my perkily inflated balloon is my undergraduate career, with those three semesters of print journalism coursework. Itâ€™s really only good at taking up space and being full of hot air.
I will never have to be on the wrong side of a test ever again, my balloon thinks airheadedly.
I matriculated, after all. Iâ€™ll never have to worry about turning in a stupid one-page reflection paper â€” a paper containing self-observations, written at the last minute â€” ever again.
The balloon floats around merrily, beside itself with glee.
Then it gets sucked into a jet engine, catches on fire and explodes in midair.
The fragments line guano-crusted nests for decades to come.
Thatâ€™s what classes are like for me now.
One class even took the time to explain how we were going to find time in our busy schedule to write one-page reflection papers. This was Monday.
I was so mad, I could have written a whole blog about it on the Collegian website. And I did.
The worst part was trying to crash a required class. The section was closed, but a friend recommended it. That means itâ€™s easy.
I show up to the class, a few minutes late. Itâ€™s already started â€” full of bustle and the whole interviewing-a-fellow-student schtick, so I find the waitlist.
Iâ€™m the sixth on the list.
A kindly older gentleman greets me, and I introduce myself. He motions toward the wait list and I tell him I already signed up.
â€œIs there any point in sticking around?â€
â€œI donâ€™t think so,â€ he said, with a friendly smile.
This class is required. Period. Not only that, but itâ€™s concurrent with four others â€” without any single class, all will be dropped.
My only option was that open section, but with a professor I had never heard of.
I was worried.
The trouble with open sections with unfamiliar professors is that the professors tend to be notoriously loud and abrasive, complimented by few students and complemented by full tenure.
I was right. My class pretty much found out at the same time.
He was about a minute late himself, all hustle and business. A student asks if heâ€™ll be dropped if he misses the first class to go to an orientation.
â€œYes,â€ the professor said curtly.
â€œThatâ€™s not nice.â€
The professor made it clear that being nice was not one of his priorities. Weâ€™ll call him Dr. Rosy.
He told us this story later, with an addendum.
â€œI hope to your God â€” because Iâ€™m not religious â€” that you do no try that â€˜I-wanna-be-your-buddyâ€™ routine with your students,â€ he said. â€œThey will eat you alive.â€
He doesnâ€™t allow students to record the lecture without prior permission.
The higher-ups all told us that the wonderful profession of teaching is haunted only by looming litigation and a few troubled students here and there.
I didnâ€™t hear a word of double-speak, or positive thinking, or bubbly and disorganized good-naturedness. He was a breath of fresh air.
I e-mailed the other professor, asking him if he could please take me off the waitlist.
Iâ€™ll deal with reflection papers for Dr. Rosyâ€™s class. I have a feeling theyâ€™ll get read.
Benjamin Baxter is a post-baccalaureate student working toward his high school credential in social science. He too hopes to have full tenure one day.