Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So tell me...

...what would you do if you had a class with a older gentleman who was actually, er...not bright, and what if this gentleman showed up with his book and paid very close attention, but had to ask a lot of questions, because he just simply couldn't understand. And what if, after a couple weeks of watching this play out, and reaching your own conclusions on the subject in your own quiet little way, you started to notice that other people in the class, younger people mostly, had started to titter and roll their eyes when the aforementioned person spoke? I hoped that the teacher would notice this, and handle it, but he has not. I guess that the fellow is there for a reason. Obviously, there is a desire to be more, an awareness of his own ignorance. I remember feeling ashamed of myself for what I was not, and so it bothers me to watch this play itself out. It bothers me a lot, watching people mock him. It is not covert, not by any means, but maybe the guy hasn't noticed it. I mean, the teacher seems to be missing it.

I don't want to make the professor mad. I don't want to embarrass the man. I don't want to watch it either, because the next person they are mocking might be me. So. I'm taking a poll. What would you do? I have an idea, but I want to see if anyone else out there might have a better one.


Mrs.Spit said...

I would catch up with him after class, and tell him you could use a study buddy, and then see about meeting him once a week to help him out.

I would also speak to the children (yes, they are behaving like children!) in your class. That's inappropriate.

Cara said...

I would not speak to the "children". A) Nothing pisses a prof of more than people talking, even those with "good causes". B) if the guy's holding up class, he's fair game.. We're paying for college too.. if you can't keep up, see the teacher after class. Sounds mean, but it's true. and C) you aren't world police.. your job is to show up to class and learn. Be extra nice to the old guy and lead by example. Most of your peers have just spent 18 years getting lectures from their mom jammed down their throat and they won't respond kindly if you attempt to play the same old broken record at them again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Debby,

Ask yourself, what significance do these mockers have in this man’s life?

Are any of them related to him by blood, marriage, or friendship? Will any of them be marking his essays or exams? Do any of them sign his pay checks? Pay for his tuition fees, his mortgage? his bills? Put food on his table? Support his family?

If the answer to all these questions is no, then all these mockers are –is bunch of rude, cowardly, insignificant nobodies; not worthy of the scantest regard.



Caroline said...

I would bite my tongue and not saying anything. Call me insensitive but it is not my problem. I can't solve the worlds problems - I have enough of my own. The childish mockers are stupid and immature and will grow out of it, eventually, we would hope. The gentleman is probably out of his league in the class but it is the professor's job to deal with that, not yours.

I may sound cold and insensitive but life is not always easy.

Mary Paddock said...

We are responsible for each other. That's how this thing is supposed to work.

I like Ms Spit's idea of inviting him to be a study buddy. Though I'd glare at the titterer's and shshsh them (using good old fashion leadership/peer pressure)as opposed to saying something. My bet is that not all the other students are tittering. My bet is, if you respond, there will be others who will join you. And those who are behaving badly will take the hint.

Personally I'm applauding the gentleman who is going back to school. It is (as you know) no small feat to return to classroom life at any age, but the older you are the harder it is.

Debby said...

Interesting. My idea was actually to take the man under my wing, be the study buddy. DavidM brings up an interesting point. I understand being ridiculed and dismissed. Even though I was responsible for myself, taking care of my own business, those things made me feel badly about myself. (I have since come to learn that DavidM is right, that really, these people have no real importance in my life.) But I think it would be awful for the man (he is about 40) to be embarrassed out of class. The offending party seems to be 'the smokers', the folk who go out of the class during break to have a cigarette, and do some talking together.

BUSH BABE said...

This is hard. I would probably quietly talk with him outside the class. See if he is enjoying the experience, if he is gaining from it. I would not be overt about trying to change the behaviour of others. It would only serve to embarrass him and them.

I would possibly try to distract attention, with another (more pertinent) question to the teacher if needs be. Gently, gently, and quietly at his elbow. At least I hope I would.

Lydia said...

Wow,what a quandary.

I would probably not do anything, or fume until I did some passive-aggressive unhealthy thing without thinking in the middle of class and make myself look like a big boob.

I am so glad that you have the where-withal to even review the situation and look at your options.

Some day when I grow up.....

Anonymous said...

"My bet is that not all the other students are tittering. My bet is, if you respond, there will be others who will join you. And those who are behaving badly will take the hint".
Mary Paddock.

I agree. And It could be the case, that the older student is asking the questions that some of the other students are reluctant to ask for the fear of being riduculed.


Mikey said...

Oh boy this pisses me off. Really bad. Can I come over there and sit in? Cause I guarantee, it wouldn't happen again. (and I am so not kidding. I'll get on a plane for you)

First, I would sit close to this guy. Make friendly, be available for questions yourself. Maybe you can head the questions off a bit, and yes, as Mrs. Spit said, maybe he's a future study buddy? I think that's a good idea.
While sitting close to him, anticipate what's going to happen. As he asks his questions, if you hear a twitter, spin your head, lock on that person and give them the raised eyebrow and head tilt. If a simple look doesn't do it, point a finger at the offender and silently mouth the words "Shut it".
That usually does it, but if not, hop up, go to the person who's loudest and lean down and ask if they need to go outside.
Now I bet you can make it seem nice when you say that. Like you're offering them the option to go outside and pull themselves together.
When I say it, I'm usually very close to their face, eye to eye and I make it seem like I'm going to follow them outside, which generally is enough to scare most people into shutting up :)
Don't let this shit go on. It's not nice, it's the beginning of school bullying.

If the above doesn't work, have a heavy textbook handy. One snicker from the asswipes, and ooops, it just FLEW OUT OF MY HAND. I'm so sorry it hit you in the head. My bad....

Short story (one of many) I was with my family in TN to bury my grandfather. I have two degenerate boy cousins in their early 20's then. Worthless as hell. So the older one decides he wants to take our rental van into town to meet some girls. My mom told him no, he wasn't listed to drive it. He threw a fit about it. He knocked on the door of our second story motel room. I was sitting on the bed surfing the Net.
He confronts my mother in the doorway and says "Do you have a problem with me?" As she's trying to answer him kindly and calmly, I came off the bed and said "I have a problem with you". I grabbed him by the throat in the doorway, pushed him out, told him "YOU NEVER SPEAK TO MY MOTHER THAT WAY" and held him back over the railing. He pulled back to throw a punch (but his arms are too short to actually hit me, these cousins are built like trolls) and I sneered "You go ahead and do it" because I was prepared to take my other hand, grab him like a six pack and toss him over the railing. I mean, we're here to bury our grandfather, this shit ain't happening on my watch. Meanwhile his brother was standing by, shocked, then starts yelling "Let him go!!" as I'm shaking and choking his brother with one hand. Then Mom and her sister started beating me, saying the same thing, trying to get between us. I finally did let him go. They stayed far far away from me during the funeral, which was good cause I was still pissed. I told my mom outright, "One more time and we'll bury two more today".

They came out here a few years later to help their mother move. To my vast amusement, they brought the sheriff with them to make sure I didn't do that again. Needless to say we haven't spoken since that incident.

But stand up, Debbie. Don't be afraid to give them what for. Just try not to choke the life out of them :) Unless it's called for. Then give em hell.

A Novel Woman said...

Ah, Debby, you're too good for your own good sometimes. And I mean that in the nicest possible sense. You have an innate sense of justice and fair play and I like that about you, but sometimes you have to step back a bit and look at a scenario objectively.

Me? I'd probably go to the professor and in a casual, friendly way, I'd ask a generic question then chat to him about the class in general in order to get around to asking him if he's noticed this particular behavior. Ask him what he's prepared to do about it. He's had a fair bit of experience with this type of behaviour in other classes.

YOU do not want to stand out as a target, which will happen for sure if you speak to the bullies directly. No question. It will make your experience in class miserable, the bullying behaviour won't change, and you may in fact make it worse for this guy. The one person they respect above all others, the only person they do not want to piss off, is the professor. He holds all the power. If you can get him on board, you will have found a way to fix the problem. He may give this fellow extra time to sort out his studies. Or he may direct him to a tutor to help. Or he may dress down the bullies in class and embarrass them that way. But that is the route to go, at least to begin with.

I believe we should help each other, that's true. You might be able to help him as a study buddy, but then again, he may slow down your studies, become too dependent on you, or even become emotionally attached. I'd be friendly but careful, chat to him to let him know he's not alone, but let the prof handle it, at least to begin with.

We, as women, as wives, as mothers, ALWAYS put the needs of other people ahead of our own.

This experience at school is for YOU first and foremost. (And I like Cara's comments! There are some essential truths in there.)

Ash said...

Your are a kind and compassionate woman, Debby. Unlike many (who are just thinkers or talkers), you are a 'doer'and I admire that.
A novel woman and Cara have echoed a lot of my thoughts on this (and I have been thinking about this since yesterday.. see, i'm one of the thinkers;)). I'm not sure about going to the prof though. I mean, if he hasn't noticed the problem yet, his chances of taking any action about it seem rather small to me and trying to make your classmates behave could make you the next target. I agree with Novel woman on the point that trying to help him out as a study buddy could hinder your progress and as Cara pointed out, you've paid for college too and your first priority would have to be your progress in the class.
What you could do is talk to the man about going to the prof after the class, like Cara suggested. During my postgraduate course, I had several profs who had a strict 'no questions during class' policy but would happily answer questions and even go over the material covered in class again for as long as it took after class, quite happily. Many Profs find it distracting when questioned in class and that could be the reason why the Prof hasn't taken any action about this in class. And of course it's distracting to the other students too.
My comments and Cara's may seem a little harsh but our battle scars from the competitive, chaotic mayhem that is college are still fresh and the motto, 'Every man for himself' was drilled rather deeply into my brain during college.

Scotty said...

Bullying is bullying, regardless of who's doing it or at what level of education it takes place - shut them down, Debby, by whatever means you deem appropriate.

Redlefty said...

You're wanting to each college students empathy?! Good luck!


I can't tell which problem you're trying to solve. The solution is based on the problem:

If the issue is the man's academic struggles, then buddying up with him as a study partner might be a great idea.

If the issue is the other students' mockery, again I say good luck, but your best chance is to learn more about this man and help give him a real identity to the other students. Right now he's just "dim guy who's slowing us down" in their eyes.

If the issue is the classroom disruption from their behavior, then I'd stay quiet. It's the professor's class and if he doesn't see a problem, then there's no problem.

WhiteStone said...

Well, I may as well jump on the bandwagon here. Since I'm an old lady with white hair and since I, too, once sat in a college classroom for two years at the then-ripe-old-age of 39, and since I've put up with a lot of s*** in my prior years, I feel I can address the issue, too.

My instant thought was to "befriend" this fellow. Not necessarily invite him to be a study-buddy (altho you can if you want to) but to acknowledge him each and every classtime with a "Hello, Name, how was your day." You know...small talk...but talk that shows you recognize and respect him as a real live human being. If you are his buddy, you have the status to call anyone on their behavior towards him.

If the prof doesn't seem to mind the questions, you could perhaps shorten the torture for the younger ones by paraphrasing and restating in such a way that the answer is short and sweet and which also explains it in an understandable way to the guy. Or whisper to him to ask you after class.

If the mannerless young adults continue and even escalate their rude behavior and the prof does not intervene, give 'em a 'what-for' in the hallway outside of class. They may snicker when you tell them up front that they lack the manners of a two-year-old but when they hear that in front of their friends, they will be embarrassed. Unless they are completely reprobate, in which case, they are just bottomline idiots and God grant them mercy for their stupidity and cruelty.

Cara is right...you are not a crusader in this situation...but I will add this...you are a human being and because you are older and have more experience, you see the unfairness of the rude snickering. They are too young to see this man as a man who is struggling, for whatever reason, to move ahead in his life. They haven't yet struggled that way, you see. They can't empathize because they haven't been there, done that. I hope they never have to be in his shoes.

God help us all to be a little bit kinder to one another.

Anonymous said...

You are a very caring person Debby, but sadly you can't fix things for everyone, hard though that sounds.
It is early days yet in your class. Be assured your teacher will not have missed the interplay as it is amazing how much you can see of what goes on when you are in front of a class. Class behaviour is in the long run, the responsibility of the person out the front - and individual behaviour that of each individual. It can be so very hard to witness this going on. I would think from what you say of the others' behaviour that they are very immature and the problem is theirs really, not yours or his.
I am also quite sure that there will be others in your class you have noticed this and thought on it. Sometimes we feel a bit silly asking what seems an obvious question and don't do it, but can be relieved when someone else asks it instead and sometimes we wish we had had the courage to co likewise. Perhaps he may be helping others with his questions?
Another thought is that he may be more confident than he may appear to others and is not afraid of asking? I wouldn't try to do more than observe in these early days, although you are upset by it. Watch others and see how they react to the actions of the immature group. My experience is that the immature ones usually regard themselves as the 'cool group', but they don't end up accomplishing much. Are they all just out of school?
If you make some other friends in the class maybe a light discussion on the behaviour of these may reassure you that there are other points of view.
I agree that their behaviour is bad, but so is that of many in society and there is always a group around a bit like this. It will be interesting to see how well they do themselves.

My advice would be - don't take on a cause unless you have looked at it from all sides. Be friendly with this man, but don't give out any messages thay may be misconstrued. You and all the rest there are all new and the year will play out in many ways. If you see a great injustice happening, I would see the college counsellor first for advice first. Class behaviour is in the end down to your teacher and he/she has probably dealt with so many situations involving immature 'would-be's' over the years and seen many scenarios. This also is college, not school, where it can be a microcosm of the real world, and students are expected to act like, and be treated like adults.
Lots of good comments above. I agree with Ash, Novel Woman, Cara, BB and much of the others also.

Good luck and stay calm and try not to let it worry you too much. Sometimes we can underestimate the ability of others to handle tough situations. Love Barb

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the essay! Didn't realise it was so long! A couple of typos too! Argghh Barb

Anonymous said...

That's crazy. I can't imagine any of the students in my classes being anything but overly-friendly with older students or even slower students.

The ones that anger me are the young, extremely intelligent but probably lacking in social skills students who ask completely unrelated questions. Like the professor will go over a concept and then the kid raises his hand and asks if that's how something completely different works. The professor then has to take time to answer this unrelated question. I work very hard at keeping my face impassive during these questions because even though they irritate I don't attach any animosity to the student, just frustration that they are taking us off track. I've never noticed students grumbling at any kind of questions asked. You must be in an interesting environment.

Two Hands said...

Over here from Mrs. Spit's page. I like her suggestion the best and treating him like a human being in front of those bullies might make them think twice (although it's a long shot). While I understand the idea that this is your education, these children are also members of society - they may be our doctors, our politicians - the sooner they learn proper behaviour, the better it is for everyone, including you. We can't live with an "every man for himself" philosophy, it just doesn't work. As someone who has been in school for a long time, I've watched these kids go through a degree and come out with their heads still up their bums. There's a good chance they'll be the older, slower students at some point in their lives when they come back in their 40's to try and figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
Bless you for caring for this gentleman. I'm behind you no matter what you choose. It's people like you, with compassion, empathy and attention to these things who make the real difference.

Bill of Wasilla said...

I would make a point to treat the gentleman decently and that's probably about it. If the situation got too out of hand and the students too cruel I might make a somewhat covert comment or two posed as a question or comment regarding the discussion and see if it hit the mark.

If he does feel any humiliation from what the students are saying, I would not want any action of mine to add to that humiliation - even inadvertently by speaking in his defense.

The prime responsibility is with the teacher, both to insure that all of his students get the most out of his class, but also make certain that if someone is not qualified to be there and that person is disrupting the learning experience for the entire class, to deal with it in a respectful way.

quid said...

I'm with the folks that want you to drop an idea in the head of the professor...and for you, treat the older man with respect.

We want to mother the world. Sometimes, you can't.


Daria said...

I'm afraid I understand what you are going through ... I experienced the same in my courses. The younger crowd sure do like to make fun of the boomers. It bothered me a lot ... because I'm a boomer.