Manic-Depressive Teaching

My teaching experience this semester is very manic-depressive. The 10 am and 12 pm sections are phenomenal, engaged, curious, and hard-working. I come out of them feeling inspired and energized.

Then the independent researchers start visiting me in my office between 1 and 3 pm. In these meetings, I have to explain why 92 language mistakes on 4 pages of text translate into a failing grade and why Wikipedia is not a legitimate scholarly source.

The day culminates with my 3 pm class where students yawn and stare at the clock no matter what I do.

I’m beginning to feel that this is messing with my mental health because I’m constantly going from a high to a low.

Today, for example, I was talking about the current recession and felt zero response from my 3 pm students.

“Do you know that the world is experiencing a global economic crisis right now?” I asked.

The students shrugged and looked bored.

“Do you remember what happened in 2008 when the crisis started?” I persisted.

The students yawned and looked even more bored.

“2008? The housing market crash? The bailouts?” I screeched in a shrill, desperate voice.

The entire class turned their heads to the wall and stared at the clock. Have you ever seen 24 people simultaneously turn to look at the clock when you are talking? It is not a pleasant thing to observe.

Finally one student took pity on me.

“We don’t remember this,” he explained patiently. “It was a long time ago.”

Yes, 2008, that’s totally ancient history. I’m very happy that I don’t actually have to teach Ancient history to this group.

I’ve tried everything I could to awaken these students but the only moment in the semester when they came somewhat alive was when they saw my new haircut.

“Ah, you cut your hair!” said one of them with the animation I wish he invested into his studies. “VERY cute.”

“Yes, I like it,” another student agreed.

“I don’t know,” a student whose voice I had never heard in my life suddenly contributed loudly. “I liked her previous hair-style before.”

“I think she cut it for her conference talk this week,” yet another student announced.

Something must be seriously wrong with people who think the recession and the unemployment are less deserving of attention than my haircut.

28 thoughts on “Manic-Depressive Teaching

  1. For me, here, it is always like this, the highs and lows. I really dislike this as I, if animated, really prefer the (relaxed) mid-to-high hum, not these extremes.


          1. It took me a long time, but I finally got the sense of humor, which is to laugh at the negative things about somebody. So someone catches a cold because of the weather, and you can teach grammar on this basis: “tell me what you SHOULD do when you leave the house.”


  2. I once had a class filled with energy vampires. They were the last group of the day and no matter what I did or said (or had them do) they stared at me like bored and/or hostile cattle.

    Then towards the end of the semester another of their teachers (different subject) told me: “They’re always telling me how much they enjoy your class”.

    Normally I’d assume that other teacher was just messing with me, but it didn’t fit that person’s profile at all so I had to assume the students in question really did enjoy the class and silently glaring at me was the way they chose to express that….


      1. I’ve also had that class and those evaluations. It is strange, but it happens. I think in your place I’d give up on economics and have them rate the haircuts of world leaders, famous writers, and anyone else you would like them to have heard of. The students may not know the issues, but they’ll at least recognize the people.


  3. I suppose they feel disconnected from the recession, but your haircut is real and opposite them. Your haircut is personal and they can relate to it.


  4. “Something must be seriously wrong with people who think the recession and the unemployment are less deserving of attention than my haircut.”

    This does explain a lot though, about why the world is in the state it is.

    I’m a youth worker, not a teacher, so I don’t get to do much exploration of my young charges’ ignorance. Gems I have encountered, though include a twelve-year-old who didn’t know that Texas was part of America, and who thought it was somewhere near Poland, and a fourteen-year-old who was surprised to learn that she was made of atoms.


    1. “…a twelve-year-old who didn’t know that Texas was part of America, and who thought it was somewhere near Poland.”

      Although true, I now feel bad for having said that, given that it was she who, albeit unwittingly, triggered a significant advance in my recovery from the trauma of childhood bullying. I had, for many years, internalised the feeling that I was a thoroughly unlikable person, and although I had gotten past that feeling in respect of adults and younger children, there was still one age-group, teens and tweens, I had difficulty with. She wasn’t the first in that age rage to like me. She was, however, the first I couldn’t make excuses for, the first to make me believe.

      She deserves better from me that the unkind remark I made above, so in the interest of balance, I should say that she is good at spelling and passable at basic algebra.


      1. You are a very kind and intelligent person. I wish I were capable of this kind of insight when somebody disappoints or annoys me.

        I’m glad you are recovering from the horrible experience of bullying.


      1. Your health first. Your lectures are great and your students probably prefer to drink the knowledge pouring out of your mouth rather than participating. It is just like that sometimes.

        I unfortunately had a similar experience two years ago. After trying to have my students involved in my class I decided to lecture without interacting, and I opened a 10-minute question time at the end of the class. The evaluations were OK.


        1. “Dependency theory is the theoretic basis of economic neo-colonialism, which proposes that the global economic system comprises wealthy countries at the center, and poor countries at the periphery. Economic neo-colonialism extracts the human and the natural resources of a peripheral (poor) country to flow to the economies of the wealthy countries at the center of the global economic system; hence, the poverty of the peripheral countries is the result of the how they are integrated to the global economic system.”

          – Maybe that’s what I should do.


    1. David Gendron is right. My way to respect my students was to allow a 10-minute discussion in every class, where we could hear the silence.


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