Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Aimless prattle

Sounds like somebody needs a dictionary!

As if these kids aren’t dealing with poor spelling all over the Internet, now they’re HEARING it on the radio. I will confess that I like the song Fergalicious. I know the video is completely antithetical to feminism, but it’s got a groovy beat and I can dance to it. I give it an 85. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what the hell is spelling at one point and today I figured it out. He’s spelling tasty, but he’s spelling it wrong!!! (I know, I know, poetic license and all that stuff.) Tastey. Cripes. Just what I need. Good job, Fergie! Soon you’ll need to open your own school for kids who can’t read good because of all the damage you’ve done. Thanks for nothing, bitch.

How to get a whole new wardrobe without spending a dime!
Disclaimer: This only applies to people who are unbelievably messy and disorganized, like myself.

In a rare fit of Virgo-like activity, yesterday I decided to clean out my closet. Guess what I found in my "to-be-dry-cleaned" basket? About 4 pairs of pants, 7 sweaters and 3 blouses that I had completely forgotten about. Like forgotten I owned them. Lately, I’ve been saying to Mr. J., “I feel like I’m wearing the same things over and over again,” and guess the fuck what? I was. Duh.
A Family emergency

I guess my body has decided to ring in the beginning of every semester with a wicked-bad bout of insomnia. Sigh. Here we go again, folks. Hopefully this round I will neither hallucinate nor shower with my glasses on. Hence, I was watching Will & Grace at around three a.m. In this episode, they were at Jack’s graduation from nursing school and the? head nurse? someone? said the guest speaker wouldn’t be coming because she had a family emergency which of course, everyone knows is code for “vaj problems.” I couldn’t stop laughing. Today I checked my e-mail and a female student told me she would not be in class on Monday because of a family emergency and all I can think now is “vaj problems.” This is not good. And it’s going to be even worse if a male student tells me this because I will automatically think, “Oh, I get it. Your girlfriend has vaj problems.” I am probably too juvenile to be teaching anyone. Definitely too juvenile to be teaching college students.
Oy with the siblings already

Guess what, gang? Another set of sibs is in my class this semester - young women who look so much like twins that I would think they were except one is nearly a foot taller than the other. And they sat next to each other and whispered and giggled the whole class. My hairy eyeball and pointed pauses were not enough to shut ‘em up. I wonder if I SHOULD have said something to show what a “hard-ass” I can be? Years ago, the department chair was female and she would advise all the female professors to wear high heels (not a problem over here!) and a suit on the first day of class (okay, THAT’S a problem. Do I really want my Ann Taylor suits covered in chalk dust? I do not) and act really mean. Because you can always get nicer, but you shouldn’t start out nice and then have to get mean. Or something. I get the gist, but who wants to be a raging bitch the first day of class? Okay, probably some people. All right, probably me, sometimes. Teachers – whaddaya think? Start out like a humorless drill sergeant and then back off as the semester progresses? Or does anyone else even put that much thought into their classroom “persona”?
Yeah, we live like rock stars around here
A few years ago, some of my friends decided to – wait for it – put together a list of our most hated words. Do we know how to party or what? (Of course, that little endeavor led Mr. J. to christen me “Word Nerd” and I have been stuck with that moniker ever since.) I am in charge of the list. I still have it somewhere. If I’m not mistaken, there were categories. (Jealous yet? I'm sure this is how Aerosmith spent their Saturday nights pre-rehab!) “Products” that were made-up words like McGriddles. Corporate words and phrases like “post-mortem” and “ramp up”. Other made-up words and phrases that are complete bullshit like “wintry mix.” That one truly vexes me. I HATE when the weather person says, “Tomorrow, be on the lookout for a wintry mix.” Way to cover your ass. What the hell does that mean? Could be sleet. Could be snow. Could be cold rain. We don’t really know so it’s a wintry mix! Sounds like a party snack but a lot less fun. And finally, real words that just . . . blech! You don’t want to say them or read them and – perhaps worst of all – you definitely don’t want to hear them. Like probe. And kumquat. And finally the word that inspired this particular paragraph: Repository. Can we PLEASE call it something else? Something that doesn’t sound so much like suppository? I mean, really.

On a cheerier note, I would like to give a shout out to a few of the words I really, really like: Kerfuffle, mercurial, solipsistic! Hey kids! Love ya! Now I see why we didn’t have a list of words we loved. I guess it’s easier to be annoyed by something, especially if you’re me.
Classroom Update – Now I’m Mad!

I have been moved to a different room in the same building because, well, I’m not really sure. But I no longer have electronic window blinds. The department secretary called me and asked me if I would be willing to change rooms. Why not? Isn’t that the same as asking if you’d like to see a different part of hell? “Do you have more than 75 students?” she asked me. I have exactly 75. Perfect! She put me in Room D for Dungeon. I went over there to check out my new digs and found exactly 70 desks. I counted three times. Yes, folks, 70 desks and not much room for one more, let alone five more. Now that shit pisses me off. I am mad for my students. They have paid boatloads of money to take my stupid class and personally? I think a freakin’ desk should be part of the damn purchase price. Mr. J. assures me I won’t have to worry because I will never have all 75 students in the class at the same time – but – hello? Exams? So . .. then what? They’re supposed to sit on the floor? I’m supposed to be so student centered that you can plagiarize the hell out of an assignment and not get in trouble, but sorry, we’re fresh out of desks. WTF?
Got whole milk?

No? I didn’t think so. At the risk of repeating myself, I must address this Very! Important! Subject! Since it’s January every magazine and newspaper is featuring a “lose that holiday weight” article. And they all include advice on “how to lose 10 pounds in a month without even trying.” And they ALL say, “Replace whole milk with 2%, 1%, or even skim!!!” Seriously. Who are they kidding. Is there ANY woman in America who drinks whole milk?!!?! What is wrong with people? Disclaimer: If you drink whole milk, I am wrong and I apologize to you, madam. But I’m pretty sure I’m not wrong.
On Being Brave – And How I Wasn’t
This is my only truly serious topic today and I’m embarrassed about it, but I guess if I sit in the giant confessional that is the Internet and then do 10 Hail Marys, 10 Our Fathers and 10 Glory-Bes, I will be absolved. Or not.

I am in some classes that are masters/doctoral level. After class, a bunch of us were standing around talking – I was the only doc student so I don’t know them as well as they know each other. One of the masters students was bitching about how disappointed she was in someone’s work. Apparently, one arm of the department was having a student conference and someone had volunteered to make a brochure. The masters student (let’s call her Janice) was going on and on about how it was the worst brochure EVER and she couldn’t believe that Molly sent it out to the whole group without her approval first and there were SO many things wrong with it on and on ad nauseum. Finally I asked, “Who’s Molly?” She replied, “You know, Molly Jones.” Molly is a doctoral student in my program. We started the program together and we have shared almost every class. I adore her. She is hard working and funny and articulate and a whole lot of things and just – what’s not to like? I also know that her partner of 11 years up and left her around Thanksgiving – for a man – and she is (understandably) devastated. But unlike me, she is very composed and together. In fact, you wouldn’t know she was going through something so horrible unless you really, really pushed her to admit something was wrong and maybe not even then. Point is – she’s not a complainer or a whiner or an emotional trainwreck like I would be in that situation. She and I discussed her situation a lot over e-mail during the holidays which – of course – were incredibly difficult for her.

I stood there and let Janice bad-mouth Molly to 9 other masters students while I did nothing. I kept wanting to yell, “Stop it! She’s an amazing human being and you have no idea what she’s going through and how dare you talk about her like she murdered children when all she did was send out a ‘disappointing’ brochure!” But I didn’t. As Janice raged on (BTW, in case you haven’t figured it out, Janice needs her meds adjusted and I am just a little bit afraid of her), all the other masters students nodded and clucked sympathetically and shook their heads in that, “Some people are just so unbelievable” kind of way. Finally, I interrupted her but it was too late. And I didn’t say what I wanted to say. The only thing I said was, “You need to tell Molly that then. She needs to know how you prefer to work so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. It’s only fair.” Janice nodded and agreed and I know she will never say a word to Molly – just continue to bad-mouth her behind her back. As the group dissipated, I stood there with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t stick up for Molly. I didn’t defend her. And you know what? I can pretty much bet that she would have defended me in the same situation. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but this year I want to become brave. I think at 36, it’s a little overdue.

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Blogger saintseester said...

On being mean, if two people are talking in my class and I have to talk over them, I will call them out on it. (Not the incidental lean-over to ask "what did she say?") If it is disturbing you, it IS disturbing the other students.

On the Janice thing, if she is as venomous as you portray, she will attack your friend again, soon. So perhaps you will get the opportunity to be brave and tell her a little something (nicely so she doesn't go whacko!). This is better because you have time to think about how and what you would say to her.

The TASTEY thing cracked me up, because I was just thinking about how much it BUGGED me, but then I was worrying that I was just being, you know, old fart prude.

Have a lovely weekend.

January 19, 2007 2:11 PM  
Blogger Fresh Hell, Texas said...

I think you were brave. Maybe not as brave as you would have liked, but you did say something. And while I have no doubt it will have no effect whatsoever on Ms. Crazy, it might have made an impression on the other students. And, next time you'll be more prepared to step up.

As for the talking in class, I had a very interesting experience with that this past week. I am 38 and back in college. I was sitting in one of my classes when they these two young women started talking, non-stop. They were sort of whispering but it was as annoying as hell and they too ignored the hairy eyeball from our professor.

After about ten minutes, during a lull in the lecture, another older student said directly to these young women, "Excuse me, but could you please stop talking while the professor is lecturing?"

You could have heard a pin drop.

But they did shut up.

So, I say, tell them to shut it. Of course you'll have to say it nicer than that. Believe me, your serious students will appreciate it.

January 19, 2007 3:50 PM  
Blogger Jhianna said...

2% here, and I only use whole milk when a baking recipe calls for it. (I'm always afraid that the lack of fat will make it completely explode or something.)

You were in a tough spot with that. I know that I would have had been worried about saying too much. Something could have slipped out about going through a rough time, possibly? It sounds like Molly wouldn't have appreciated that at all.

I'm not trying to find excuses. I'd like to be that brave as well. It's difficult for me because I seem to be all about compromise and keeping the peace. Just don't beat yourself up too much. You can always confess to Molly and then talk badly about Janice.

January 19, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Peach said...

1. I always knew he was spelling tasty wrong LMAO it kills me that and Young Jeezy and his "trapstar" he says "im a t r a p s t r" lmao. That and I do drink whole milk LADY. I need it though...dont hate me but im just 5'2'' 105 and im trying to be 120. Dont bother yelling at me because everyone else i know in my LIFE yells at me. "YOU SKINNY BITCH!!!"

January 19, 2007 7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely put a great deal of thought into my classroom persona: Always "Start out like a humorless drill sergeant and then back off as the semester progresses." It's no fun to be a bitch at first, but it IS fun to be able to loosen up as you get to know your students.

January 19, 2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Oh, Peach. You can't see me, but over here I'm cringing with the shame of my ignorance. I apologize. And yes, while I wouldn't scream at you and call you names, I have no doubt I'd be jealous if I knew you IRL.

January 19, 2007 8:13 PM  
Blogger ProfessorDog said...

I don't drink milk, but when I need some to make something, I get whole, because it comes in pints. But yeah, I think you're right, not too many adults sit down to a big ol' glass of whole milk...maybe people who just finished chemo and need to gain weight?

January 19, 2007 9:34 PM  
Blogger J.E.M.S. said...

I vary on my milk consumption, but for many years, I did indeed drink whole, and still do. Largely because I don't drink vast amounts of milk, and the less fat, the faster it seems to sour.

As to the chatty own very weird technique, which I've used only very occasionally, is to fix my gaze on the offenders and slowly raise the level of my voice until every student in the room notices and the chatty folks finally get a clue and are shamed into silence by the fact that everyone in the room is staring at them. It's slightly embarrassing to do, but also rather fun.

January 20, 2007 1:57 AM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

I don't sit down to any type of milk at all- I don't like the taste.

Speaking of taste, I actually had to go home and look up the spelling of tasty, because I was that sure that a mainstream rapper wouldn't have spelled it wrong. dork, I am!

I put some thought into my campus persona *not just in the classroom, since I have an almost 2 hour break between classes and need to occupy myself on campus. But so far my hairy eyeball has done me well. I only have one set of chatterboxes, but they're the same from last semester, and the class is incredibly small. If I stop the lecture, they have to stop talking or they'll be heard.

In the past, I've gone up to groups and told them that their endless prattle is disturbing others, and if they felt the need to chat, please just write notes. For some reason it put the fear of gob into them!

January 20, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Annette said...

It's definitely better to start out mean and grow nicer as the semester progresses. I'm not actually a professor yet (someday, hopefully!) but I have employed this technique in the classes I've TA-ed. I've also noticed it in classes I've taken in college and grad school. Some of the best liked teachers are the ones who start out seeming pretty strict and bitchy. When you see that they're actually really cool and nice human beings, it makes you respect them that much more. So I definitely vote for the bitchy persona at the beginning of the term!

January 20, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Oh, JEMS - I LOVE the raising my voice slowly while staring at them. LOVE it. It's pure evil genius!

January 20, 2007 10:09 AM  
Blogger mex (aka Syb) said...

whatta eggselento blawg today, long and varied and witty



January 20, 2007 10:13 AM  
Blogger Shawnee said...

Oh, thank GOD, it's not just me! (Why do I feel like I always say that on here?) I was watching the "Fergalicious" video (in & of itself a tragedy) & was so obsessed about "wait, he spelled tasty wrong, did you hear that, T-A-S-T-E-Y, there's no e, why did he add the e, why is he spelling that wrong, no wonder none of the kids today can spell" blah blah blah, I am fairly certain my husband could only wonder why he married an old woman with obvious OCD tendencies.

About the whole Molly / Janice issue, I'm not sure exactly what you could have said without disclosing the situation Molly's in right now, which I assume you don't want to do. Not sure what the "perfect" response would have been, but I hope things get better for Molly.

Oh, & whole milk makes me gag. Until I read your comments, I also would have assumed that no one beyond the age of 6 still drank it. Whoops!

January 21, 2007 10:01 PM  
Blogger Kimberley said...

Whole milk is chewing your dairy products. irritates me too, yet, I can't turn the tuner to something else. Think she's got some sort of backward masking in there that is hypnotizing us? OH..and words you hate..thank you for the corporate gag-isms. Hate 'em! And it KILLS me when people say 'heighth' such word is 'height'.
(stepping off soapbox now) :)

January 22, 2007 8:39 AM  
Blogger Shark said...

I vote to ban "irregardless." Need I explain?
Also, WHY does everyone under age 40 feel compelled to use "like" and/or "you know" IN EVERY SENTENCE? Is it truly (or is it "truley" now???) a conspiracy to drive me mad?
P.S. - I adore your blog.

January 22, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger jenna sais quoi said...

The misspelling thing has been around for awhile. I have this 80's compilation CD that has the song "Ladies First" on it, and it makes me grit my teeth every time I hear Monie Love's line: "'Cause I'm the L-A-D-I-E."

Instead of L-A-D-Y. Arrrrgh!

January 22, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Ottoette said...

Did you see my post on the golden globes and the L'oreal ad for the cream that Re-Densifies your face? What the ??? I thought of you
I feel so ashamed when I don't stand up for a friend - I feel ya on that one. Come up with a GREAT comment for next time, as PP said, she WILL do it again!

January 22, 2007 5:42 PM  
Blogger Betsy said...

I often read the same weight loss articles, hoping for something easy, jealous of my freshman year roommate would could always still switch to skim from whole. I had already done that years ago. Now, I work with teenagers (most of them overweight) who refuse to switch from 2% to skim. I wonder if they're holding on to that 2% milkfat so that when they're our age they'll have an easy trick to weight loss . . .

January 23, 2007 1:04 AM  
Blogger Suzi said...

I drink 2%.

You did something for Molly, even if it wasn't the best. And next time you'll be ready.

I love the idea of staring at them and raising your voice. I wonder if that would work with everyone.

And absolutely be Dr. Mean first week of school. My husband tells me that every semester, but most of the time I forget. I do hand them a sixteen page syllabus and go over all the assignments the first day. Does that count?

January 31, 2007 12:00 AM  

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