Thursday, March 11, 2010


You know, I so dread Psychology class that I've begun to lay awake in the night trying to figure it out. I know that I cannot explain it to you, not really. You have to actually be in the class to understand what I'm trying to explain. Last night, laying there fretting about things, I figured out why I couldn't keep myself still during the last class. Standing before us claiming that she could tell whether we liked her or not by looking into our eyes. Then, after scanning the class, she laughed and said, "Don't bother looking down. I can tell that you're trying to hide something." Although this bothered me (it was the second consecutive class in which she had made this comment ), I was able to keep still. However towards the end of the class, when she said that if a seven foot tall person called you a vulgar name, you would not retaliate. I listened incredulously. If by retaliation, she meant take a ball bat to him, well, no. I wouldn't. But I would say something. The fact of the matter is that bullies behave as they behave, because they don't expect to be 'called on it'. I do respond. I respond in a strong voice, so that others in the surrounding area are listening. The bully may mutter vague nonsense, but they usually are very uncomfortable in the limelight, and back down. Her response, "Well, if the person is your boss, you would not respond." If my boss called me a vulgar name, I certainly would speak up, because there are workplace laws that forbid that sort of behavior. She then said, "If you spoke to him about this is a group setting, you would be demeaning him." Um. If he called me a vulgar name in a group setting, he needed to be corrected on that in the self same group setting. You are determining how you will be treated by not only the boss, but the entire group. You can speak up for yourself in a reasonable way. She stated that I had 'lost her'.

Thinking about things last night, I realized something. This teacher is in a position of authority. Just as she was so certain that one would not challenge the vulgar boss, she was expecting that her authority was unchallengeable as well. To have a student disagree with her was completely unexpected. This is why I had 'lost' her.

This morning we went to class and she wanted to speak with a few of us about how the class was going. One of them was (of course) me. I was not happy about meeting with her privately in her office. She was quite insistent. I met with her. She asked me to refresh her mind about grades. I told her that I was getting an A at this point. She asked me what I thought of the reading. Fine, I said. She talked about how stressful teaching was. I listened. She asked me if her 'little anecdotes' illustrated the concepts she was trying to teach. "Sometimes not," I said. I think that she was surprised by that. I told her that she generalized a great deal, she asked for examples, I gave her some, she explained that I did not understand her humor. She encouraged me to call her or to e-mail her. I said, 'I'll keep it in mind.' I left that office knowing a couple things. Number one, I make her nervous. She's doesn't know what to do with a grown woman who speaks forthrightly. I feel kind of badly about that. I've never thought of myself as intimidating, but I can see where I might be, in this case, anyhow. Number two? Yeah. She knows exactly who I am, and she reads this blog. Betcha bucks.


Jayne said...

I told you she was intimidated by you and she's been playing the bully to bluff. Could be a few other students intimidate her, too.
Sounds as though she's really uncertain of herself (those who can't do, teach?) and has probably used these methods in class before (beware of the divide and conquer rouse in class, too).
Those who are intimidated by people who are forthright and honest have something to hide and are desparate not to be found out; could be her belief she's not up to being a psych teacher, who knows, but stay forthright and honest, Debby xxx

steviewren said...

In my experience, bullies, crazies and intimidators don't understand how well most people see through them. It may be good for your instructor if she does read your blog. Maybe she will learn something about herself.

Kelly said...

Hmmm. I find the whole "meeting in her office" incident to be a bit odd. I don't blame you for trying to get out of it!

I'm sorry it's become such a stressful experience for you. At least you've got a great grade in there!

So ya think she reads your blog?!? Interesting.

Bill of Wasilla said...

Maybe she will leave a comment. I will check back at this time tomorrow and see.

Pencil Writer said...

I had a teacher many years ago when I was first in college. I was in my early 20's. The class was hand built ceramics. The instructor was fresh out of school with his masters degree and only a couple of years my senior. I was the only freshman in the class.

He was full of recently acquired knowledge and full of himself, I think. He wanted everyone to read art magazines each week and write papers on those articles.

I spoke to him one day after class about how that was all well and good, since few of us actually worked on those assignments, but that most every student in the class was taking an elective and were NOT art majors, so he might want to re-think that approach. He did. We soon had no more writing assignments.

He desperately wanted our ceramic creations to be anything but utilitarian. I argued with him. He yelled at me across the classroom and I yelled back at him my objections.

At the end of the semester, he had each of us meet with him individually to critique our work. I don't know if he asked each student to critique him or not, but he did ask me, I suppose because I wasn't intimidated by him. I was very frank with him. I complimented him on everything I liked about his teaching and made concrete suggestions reflecting my take on what would make his teaching better. He thanked me and told me he appreciated my honesty and suggestions.

I had made utilitarian objects. I made at least one outrageous pot that my family still laughs about.

Any way, I felt grateful that he finally treated me with respect in that final meeting. I also made an A in the class. I learned a lot. Wish I'd be able to take wheel-throwing ceramics, but before I could do that, my husband had graduated and we moved to his first "real" job.

Sooooooo. I think you're probably the kind of challenge your psych teacher needs and will eventually appreciate your honesty. If she doesn't, shame on her.

The real killer for me in the last meeting I had with that instructor was when he told me I needed to drink a beer before going to class so that I would be more relaxed or something like that and let my creative juices flow. I laughed. I don't drink, in the first place, and would hardly find it appealing to drink alcoholic beverages before 7:30 AM if I DID drink!

I had some good laughs over that, but, like I said, I'm glad I took the class.

Cheryl said...

Debby, I admire the way you are handling the situation [and the teacher]
Your wisdom and insight makes you an enormous asset in the class and I just hope the teacher is smart enough to see that and use it accordingly.
Well done girl!

Lydia said...

Debbie, what you are doing is exactly what a person should do. It seems to me that you are respecting the office that this teacher holds -- a place of authority. But when she is off base you are explaining your view, and it is different than her view. There is no disrespect in this action, it is simply standing for what is right, while still respecting the office of the person in front of you and the authority they have been given.

No small feat.

Debby said...

Bill - I would be very surprised if she responded on this blog. She's not direct at all. A direct person would just come out with it. Her unerring ability to hone in on the issues I had with the class, as well as the questions she asked in a friendly way while discussing my personal life are what makes me believe that she either 1) reads my mind, or 2) reads my blog. I'm not dismayed that she reads the blog. I'd be a fool if I posted secrets on line. The class is a problem for me. Just listening indicates that it is a problem for others as well. It is time to select our courses for the fall, and everyone speaks quite openly about what courses to take, what instructors to avoid, etc.

Lydia, it is interesting to me that in all the other classes, people speak, everyone listens, there is disagreement, and discussion. It is very free, and no one takes things personally. Usually there is a lot of laughing. It surprises me that in psychology class, of all places, it doesn't happen.

A Novel Woman said...

Debby you are a wise woman. You are handling this very well. (Oh, and my sister-in-law is a psychiatrist and two of my good friends are psychologists and we've talked about this kind of thing before.) You've nailed it. This prof is a bully using passive aggressive moves in an attempt to unsettle and gain control over her students. She just hadn't reckoned on someone like you.

Bullies, at their core, are very angry and insecure so they're constantly trying to gain power over others to make themselves feel better. You've really rattled her, unsettled her and she's trying to do everything to regain her power over you only you're not allowing it. That remark over you not understanding her humour? That's a CLASSIC passive aggressive move. One way to tell is to look for patterns not just single incidents, which you've seen in the classroom. It's a difficult slog because they want you to question yourself, make you think it's YOU who is confused.

The way to deal with someone like this is exactly what you've been doing.

Challenge the behavior directly in a non-confrontational and logical way.

Be assertive and don't back down when challenged.

Be careful and wary about future episodes.

And feel sorry for her and hope she gets the help she needs. She has issues.

Redlefty said...

Very insightful that she's not used to having someone like you in class. This could end up being "good" for both of you, in a development sense.

What, did you think you'd go to college and just learn book stuff? :)

jeanie said...

he he - so that is where the term "psyched" comes from. Good on you for bucking the system - all too often everyone is in there just for the grades and that was my first response reading the first half of the post - and then I thought good on her for finding out how the other half think...

The first rule of Psychology is everyone is different - or it should be.