Thursday, May 07, 2015

Thank God I don’t have to deal with any yak or bullshit

"I'm so glad the end of the term is near.  I feel drained" said the colleague.

I smiled.  And hoped that I would not be asked how I felt.  But, it was hope against hope.

"How about you?"

There.

I couldn't bullshit a response.  Of course, that is also how I end up with very few colleagues who want to chat with me.  Life is not at all about direct and open conversations.  It is mostly about bullshit.  And bullshit I detest.

I wouldn't want to bullshit in this context anyway.  I love what I do.  Engaging with students is what I want to do.  To bug them with questions. To make them think. Why would I feel drained?

"I actually get depressed sometimes in the summer.  I miss the interactions with students."  Yep, that's what I replied.

Later, after returning to my office, I continued with the grading.  Evidence was in plenty that students are thinking.  And even questioning their own views of the world.

One student had written, "It makes me view both sides of an argument, which is something not a lot of classes offer."  Why would I feel drained?  In fact, I am energized with such feedback!

From another student: "This course is also really helping me think critically about the world and about anything I do."  Or, how about this one: "The way the class is taught is different than any other class I have attended because the homework makes me think deeper ..."

What if you are a student and you find out that most faculty simply cannot wait for the term to end?  That you are draining them of their energy?  You see why Mark Edmundson wrote:
The students and the professors have made a deal: Neither of them has to throw himself heart and soul into what happens in the classroom.
Of course, some exclaim those kinds of inanities because, well, academics simply do not know how to say hello and how to engage in a social conversation:
We do, however, feel that it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in academe. The uncomfortable academic -- always hyperbolic in his/her semesterlong anxiety of teaching -- does not know what to say when passing a colleague on campus or chatting in a book exhibit at a conference or spending a minute in the elevator as it proceeds to one’s floor. There’s an uncomfortable silence. What to do? Express something phatic. “How’s your semester going?” “Busy, busy, busy!”
It is a highly narcissistic profession; it's all about the faculty.  Oh well, yet another day in the loony bin! ;)
Phatic addresses are comforting. They allow us to pass over that awkward silence that arises among academics who spend their days with so much to discuss (their own work, classroom lectures, theory, administrative issues, politics, race, gender), but when confronted with the casual moment know only the at-hand phatic comment. “Glad the semester is almost over” comforts both sides of the conversation. Thank God I don’t have to actually inquire into your life; thank God I don’t have to respond. Thank God I don’t have to know what really caused certain things to occur in a certain city in America. Thank God I don’t have to deal with any yak or bullshit.
"Thank God I don’t have to deal with any yak or bullshit" from faculty colleagues is the only comforting thought about the term coming to an end.  But, I know I won't be able to wait to meet with students.  Because it is phenomenally energizing to read something like:
This course has opened my eyes for a lot of reasons.

3 comments:

Ramesh said...

Are you attempting to teach English via your blog ??

These days there is one new word to learn for me from a fair few of your posts. Phatic ??? I've never heard the Queen use it !!! OK now I know what it means.

I was also unaware about the redeeming properties of yakshit. Despite the use of the word yak in the non animal form by Jeff Rice.

Anne in Salem said...

Ramesh, I know that feeling well. I had never heard of phatic and had to look it up. I'm not sure the difference between it and small talk. I work with a walking thesaurus. We call it "Willyspeak". I am usually able to decipher his meaning via context but sometimes revert to my old standby of dictionary.com.

Are the phatic comments negative because misery loves company? Surely the colleagues can find something positive to pass the time. Everyone recognizes such comments are superficial and don't require an in-depth or even thoughtful response. Why not say something nice and make the world a little more pleasant?

Sriram Khé said...

I ain't teaching no English. The piece had me wondering what "phatic" meant. I am simply relieved that I was not the only one who didn't know; misery loves company ;)

Why not make the world a tad more pleasant, right? At least a tad less unpleasant.

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