Sunday, March 13, 2016

Making Enemies Wherever I Go

Friday a student wanted to leave my class to go see another teacher to get feedback on a project due that evening. I asked, "Why are you going to short-change my class in favor of this other class?" He said he didn't have any other time available. I said, "That's not true; you had self-study periods today." He said, "Well, [the other teacher] wasn't available then." I said, "Why did you let it go until today?"

Basically, I wanted to bust his balls a bit, but eventually let him go see the other teacher. After all, we were just working independently on something not due for a few weeks, so why wouldn't I allow him to use his time most efficiently? But I wanted to make him think about the choices he made that he could make differently next time.

I left class to go see the other teacher, to make sure it would be okay with him, and to talk it over with him a little, because I still wasn't sure if my inclination to trust the student's time management decisions was best.

I found this other teacher in his room. I leaned on his door jamb and had this conversation with him.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Hey, can [a student] come see you this hour to talk about his paper?

OTHER TEACHER: I'm available. But why is he going to leave your class for it?

ARS: Well, we're working on something not due for a while, and I understand opportunity costs. As an economist, I'm inclined to let him do it.

OT: I understand your thinking so much better now. But what is your answer as a human being?

ARS: Humans are economic actors, so it's the same.

OT: No, I can answer in a lot of different roles. I can say, "As a [recipient of past honors] this" or "As a [graduate of an Ivy League university] that."

ARS: Economics informs the decisions of human beings, so my answer is the same. There are times when economics is not the most important thing to do with his time.

OT: See, I'm different, because I'm passionate about what I do, so I always think [my subject] is most important.

ARS: It's not that I'm not passionate about economics; it's because I'm passionate about it that I can see that it applies at all times. And your statement that [your subject] is always the most important thing is just cheap talk, because there are plenty of times in your life when your actions would indicate otherwise, like when you're eating or when you're sleeping or when you're relaxing.

OT: Okay, well I have to get to work. Good bye.

[door closes in my face while I'm still leaning in the door jamb]

I can see that I was perhaps needlessly blunt when I called his cheap talk by its rightful name, but I count the first three provocations of the conversation as all his: first, when he condescendingly said my thinking is entertaining for him to understand; second, when he needlessly name-checked his major accomplishments (that he needlessly name-checks at every opportunity available); third, when he suggested I'm not passionate about what I do. So, yeah, when you antagonize me multiple times, you get called out on your grandstanding.

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