John Mc

This is a collection of my thoughts. Some of the thoughts that I once had, I no longer do. Some thoughts I have now I have never had. Yet none shal be discounted. This blog is soley for the enjoyment of the author and the readers. On occasion the views expressed are overly exagerated in order to prove a point. Also there may be a dirty word or thought in some of the posts. Grow up and take this for what it's worth - a blog that barely anyone will ever see.


Racism Or Irreverance?

As many of you faithful readers of my blog (Both of you, I thank you) know, I am a college professor. Or, at least I consider myself to be one. I may just be an instructor, but you may call me professor.
I realized recently that I haven't written a whole lot about my classroom experiences. So, what the hell.
I teach a class called "Digital Audio Production I." Essentially it is intro to how to make commercials. But, it sounds cool and complex, doesn't it? I thought so. I once asked the class what is "feedback?" I expected a response such as "It is where a microphone picks up the audio from a speaker and feeds it's week signal to an amplifier built into the mixer and then sends it back to the speaker creating a loop of continually amplifying sound." Or at least "When you get that squeal from putting a mic next to a speaker."
Instead I got "It's when you ask a group of people to fill out surveys on something." Yup. I have a few smart-asses in the class. I'm glad that I do. It's payback, I know. I was a bit of a smart-ass in class (I know you are perplexed with this revelation.) and this is just payback for my previous behavior.
What I'm here to talk about is what occurred yesterday. If you are offended easily, this MAY not be for you. This isn't too bad, but it is a bit "racier" than I'm used to posting.
The college I teach at is predominantly black. Well, hell, my class is all black. I don't care. I judge my students on how much they respect my teachings. That's also how I grade them. I have students who get things right away and excel. They get good grades. I have students who listen intently and do all that they can to do what is asked of them. They get good grades. (Not quite as good as those who excel at what is asked. That wouldn't be fair to either group of students.) Then I have students who are there for no apparent reason. These students will not pass without the intervention from Jesus. They don't try. They don't attempt. They come to class late and leave early.
What I see now more than ever is how much teachers realize. They aren't the first-nameless cyborgs that I once thought that they were. Instead they are human beings who go out and have fun when they aren't teaching. They have friends, relationships, families and they can tell when you don't give a crap about the class at all.
Yesterday I was going to have the class use sound effects in their commercial. In order to do this, they would have to download the sound effects from the Internet and I found that the way they had their Macs (Awful machines) set up, that downloading an appropriate file that worked with the program that they were using (Mac compatible) didn't jive well together. Hell, it didn't work at all.
I then changed up the project to write a commercial. I figured that it was an important skill to learn and would be a good substitute for the project I had ready to go.
I asked the students to come up with an idea for a company that would advertise on the radio. They came up with a restaurant among other things. Including Valtrex. I figured a "restaurant" would be the most PC and easiest to write about. Then they came up with "Sr. Love Daddy's BBQ." I recommended that this restaurant have a catch. They came up with "SR. Love Daddy's Organic BBQ." I have no idea what an "organic BBQ" may consist of or, let alone, taste like, but it was creative and we went with it.
So, the next thing we learned about are "Copy points." These are essentially the aspects of the business that the client wants to put in the commercial. They are the skeleton of the ad. They came up with "Taste," "Atmosphere" and several others that also included "For white people and black people." I condensed this into "Ethnically friendly." I figured that this may be the best way for a white teacher to put down what black students had said. While it is the same thing, it sounds A LOT better!
Their reason for the two races coming together was the "Organic" aspect and the "BBQ" aspect. I will let you decide which race is looking for what. I then paused the exercise to let them know that, while being white, I have never, to my knowledge, eaten organic food. Yet, I thourally enjoyed BBQ. They seemed rather impressed. I began to wonder if I have failed in connecting to my class on a more personal level as we continued. But, none-the-less, the lesson must continue!
We then decided to determine who our target audience was. They came up with "women." Which is great, because MAJORITY of all of advertising is targeted toward women. This should be easy. The woman they were going after was 25-54 (A rather big spectrum of people, but I let them fly with it) and a soccer mom with a Volvo. They then said "Caucasian." I was slightly reluctant to put this on the board, but did. We further defined her by saying she had a few kids and listened to certain radio stations on the radio dial.
I then let the class know that their ad should include the Copy Points of the restaurant as well as target their audience. They had about a half hour to write a thirty second commercial based on what we had developed in class.
It was at this point that one of the members of the class came in very late. She has no idea what is going on. We will call her Kelly. I informed her on what she had missed and encouraged her to write a commercial based on what was written on the board.
Shortly after she began the assignment I heard her say "I have a problem with this." I looked up from my work as she explained herself further saying, "I am not happy with our teacher putting 'Caucasian' on the board. I feel that this is not right." She said this in a way that I took this as a joke. The rest of the class did as well.
I assured her (despite assuming this was a joke, I decided the best method of action was to take this as a true concern) that the 'Caucasian' comment was not something that your white teacher put on the board. As a matter of fact, one of these black students suggested that. It is mealy a description of our "target audience" and that this was what radio stations and advertising agencies did to determine who they were going to market to. In fact, many stations have even greater characteristics of their target demo. They have names for their target as well as their children and get EXTREMELY detailed. This way the DJ's and other members of the station always have "Stacy" or "Ruth" in mind in everything that they do.
She accepts this and goes back to her work. Or at least, I assume she does.
It is at this point that I hear her say "Oh hell no."
I am again looking up from my work. By now, the rest of the class is interrupted from theirs and looking at her. "Ethnically friendly?" She asks. "What the hell does that mean?! I am offended by -"
A guy in the first row turns back to cut her off saying, "Shut the hell up!"
I wanted to high-five him. He reflected the sentiments of the entire class as well as me. However, being an instructor I couldn't let this be known. These two went at it for about a minute before I made it over there. She asked him "Would you go to a restaurant who said they were 'ethnically friendly?'"
He responded to her saying "I'm ethnic. If they are gonna promise to be friendly to me, I'd like to go there."
I went over there and asked them to stop. They didn't. A guy in the corner let her know that she was making a big deal out of nothing. He said "It isn't like I'm having ol' Cletus do this ad. He ain't sayin' 'I love me sum ribs from dis joint.'" This only complicated the situation. The two started yelling at each other and I sensed that it went from joking with each other to a little more heated.
So, I did something that I didn't think that I would have to do in my class. I raised my voice. To those who know me, to those who have even known me for decades, this is a rare thing that very little, if anyone has seen. I pointed at Kelly and the guy who originally called her out and talked to the whole class when I said "The next person to talk will FAIL this project."
Silence smashed into the room. They put their pointed fingers down and picked up their pencils. The rest of the class looked at me with awe and wondered if I was telling the truth. I give a look into the eyes of all upon me to let them know that I mean business. Everyone puts their heads down and go back to writing.
The silence continues. All I hear is the sound of pen to paper. Well, that and the click of cell phone buttons. Several of the students are texting on their cell phones. In my mind this will not stand. It is an insult to my class and it is a disrespectful action towards me. If you are texting, you are going to take longer on your project, which means that more time will be spent on this aspect of class making those who finished this project faster have to wait to get to the next aspect of class. You are also showing that you care more about what your friends did last night than what I am attempting to teach you in class.
What I did when I realized that several members of my class were texting instead of working was I made an announcement. "I am about to go get a drink of water from the fountain outside. When I get back in, everyone will have their cell phones put away and cease texting or talking on their phones. Otherwise, they, too, risk failing today's project."
I then left the room. I got a drink of water. I came back in the classroom. I watched about 25% of my students quickly shove their cell phones into their pockets and purses.
The only student bold enough to keep their cell phone out for texting was one of Kelly's friends. We will call her Sarah. Sarah has yet to turn in ANY project and has only turned in the mandatory quizzes that were given on the days she chose to show up for and mid-term. Not once have I received any project from her. Sarah puts her Elmo back-pack up on her desk to conceal her cell phone. Surely with the help of Elmo (this is a college course, mind you) this plan is fool-proof! What she forgets to realize is I'm not an idiot.
I see her cell phone and make reference to it. She puts it away. But, only for a few moments. Apparently she got another text that MUST be answered immediately. Again, the Elmo back-pack should have hidden her cell phone from my view. However, the third friend in this trio, Becky asked for my assistance with the project. Sarah is visibly upset that Becky is asking me closer to their side of the room as I assist Becky with what was asked of the class.
After offering suggestions and answering questions, Becky is now aware of what is being asked of her for this project. Unfortunately, Sarah feels it is mandatory to keep up texting while I was 2.5 feet away. Either she felt I was an idiot or didn't care what I had said. Either way, she was now getting a zero for the day. This may explain why she didn't turn a project this day.
I then ask the class to turn in their projects. Once they are all in, I ask the class what aspects of the computer program that we have been using for the past five weeks leaves them with questions that I could answer for them. Several questions are asked. All are answered. I then go into what is expected of them and I give some audio examples of how I have used what they are learning in the real field. It is at some time during the asking of questions and the answering of them that there is a notable disruption from Kelly's side of the room.
Her cell phone had not been muted after being asked. It is silenced only after the first few loud notes of a song play alerting her to a call coming in and interrupt my concentration. She exaggerates a stretch and says "Oh man. I need to stretch out in the hall. Maybe get a bit of water." I am pissed. I note the phone in her hand and prevent myself from saying the first 10 things that flash through my mind.
I only looked at her and watched her walk quickly into the hall to answer the call which was obviously more important than my lecture. I paused. I slowly walked to my book and made a mark next to her name that matched that which I had made next to Sarah's name. Her friends saw this and let out a noticeable gasp.
Once she returned, it was only moments before she opened her mouth. Right in the middle of one of my explanations of a complex process within the program that we were using she said, "Why you put a mark down when I leave the room." I paused, mid-sentence, and looked her right in the eye and said "You felt it was important to leave the room when you got a phone call that interrupted my instruction."
She looked right back at me and said "But I left the room instead of answering it here and-"
With the sternest voice I have ever used I interrupted her with "You answered your cell phone in my class. End of story. If you wish to discuss this further Ms. _______, then we will do this after class. But, you will NOT waste more of my class time with your nonsense."
She closed her mouth and moved her head back as if to show that she had given up on that argument. She never met me after class. She didn't even stay until the end of the class. I can only assume that she had given up on her obviously flawed attempt at changing my mind once she saw the definition within my eyes.
I realize this post is on the borderline of funny and may have another foot in the serious. This is why I need to be careful how I take this. I will let you know how it goes.


  • At 8:58 AM, Blogger Christa said…

    John you are so funny. In a respectful way, of course. Stand your ground...and can you tape yourself being 'stern' cause I don't think I have ever heard you raise your voice?!

  • At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not entirely sure if you even achieved what you would consider an adequate level of humor in this post. I mostly found it interesting, frustrating, and inspiring.

    Since I was privileged enough to go to fancy-pants schools, I was mostly in classes with people who truly cared about attending class and making the most out of it. I also managed to avoid most Gen-Ed's due to the fabulous world of AP credit. However the couple freshmen level basic courses I had to endure had a couple of the people who clearly didn't care, came in late, left early, texted, etc...

    Never in those few classes did any of my professors ever stand up for themselves. None of them ever called out the disruptive, apathetic students on their actions/inaction, nor did they ever verbally threaten to fail anyone. I mean, for all I know, those students failed silently, but I was always really saddened to see professors belittled in that way.

    I'm glad you maintained order in your classroom, and it made me smile to be regaled with the tale of putting bitches in their places. Keep up the good work.


Post a Comment

<< Home