Beyond Boring: Three Days With Professor Bland

I couldn’t be more excited for my guest today,

Jeri Walker-Bickett.

To say this woman is multi-talented would be an understatement. Her blog is not only filled with posts about all aspects of writing, but also personal stories, editing advice, book reviews, and author interviews. She’s also an accomplished author herself, and a freelance editor…you know… in her spare time. The best part, though, is the fact that she’s approachable, funny, and supportive. If you don’t know of her already, I encourage you to visit her blog STAT!

Without further ado, I leave in you Jeri’s capable hands.

 *******

School often gets a bad rap as being beyond boring. Remember the way Charlie Brown’s teacher was always shown talking to students in a mumbled monotone? Or the listless way the teacher interacts with the classroom in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? We’ve all experienced similar scenarios. Now imagine fourteen hours of such hell. Welcome to the weekend War Films Workshop with Professor Bland.

Even though I’ve left the classroom and now work as a freelance editor, I would be crazy to let my teaching license expire. Last semester, I earned three credits as a submissions editor for a literary journal. Reading 100 short stories a month kinda kicked my ass. So this semester I opted for the relatively quick and painless process of taking three one-credit weekend workshops.

Let’s just say painless is a relative term.

I don’t particularly like war films, but figured how bad could such a class be? Needless to say, it took about an hour and a half to even get to the first movie as we engaged in pointless warm-up activities.

The realization began that this man was beyond boring. Rather than pinpoint pertinent clips, he preceded to fast forward through entire movies, stopping occasionally let a scene play while also commenting on it. He didn’t realize nobody could hear him, not that anybody was paying attention.

Nothing could rescue any of us in that room from his oblivious torture tactics.

Let’s start by getting a few things straight: I love learning and spent a decade of my life teaching writing and literature at both the college and high school level. Thanks to plentiful scholarships, I spent more years than I care to admit studying rhetoric and composition, English education, and creative writing. I still think about getting a Ph.D. No bones about it, I’m an academic nerd.

Luckily, I had my Kindle PaperWhite and iPhone. I didn’t even bother to be covert about using them. In a pass/fail class led by a buffoon, I figured normal courtesy didn’t apply. After those first three hours, I came back again Saturday for eight hours straight of beyond boring narration and general murdering of movie enjoyment. At least I managed to read half of a novel.

Early on I wondered if it was just me. I tend to be overly critical. I looked the dude up on the Rate my Professor website and saw he scored a 2.1 out of five. After reading about how much he sucked, I henceforth deemed him Professor Bland.

The $266 fee aside, I expected to learn something. Anything!

Instead, the asshole gave the class a worksheet. I’d rather just write a friggin’ paper. It was obvious his learning objectives weren’t aligned with the outcomes he expected from his the silly assignment. I picked the opening scene from the Civil War movie Cold Mountain. At least I had fun watching the good-bye kiss between Nicole Kidman and Jude law more than a few times.

Finally, I trudged back for the three remaining hours. All the while I wondered how someone could remain so blissfully unaware of how unengaging he came across. Granted, many professors are more into researching and publishing in their chosen field. But still. If you gotta do a job, you may as well try to do it well.

“So what do you think?” Professor Bland made a final, futile attempt to make the light bulbs of cinematic criticism go off in our heads.

What did I think? I wanted to say I thought he had just ruined over twenty movies that I now feel like I should go watch on my own so I can truly appreciate them. I wanted to say there was no rhyme or reason to anything he asked us to do or discuss. I wanted to say he didn’t have a clue how mind-numbingly boring and what an utter waste of time the workshop really was.

???????????????????????????????

Of course, all I did was smile and nod. I turned my little assignment in, glad for it to be over and another credit soon to be added to my transcript. Though I suppose I’ll be pissed off about that waste of a weekend for years to come.

What is one of the most disappointing educational experiences you’ve ever had?

 

JeriWB 03 (180x180)

Jeri Walker-Bickett (@JeriWB) writes short stories, creative nonfiction, and psychological suspense. The rough mining town she grew up in—with its mix of bars, churches, and whorehouses—populates her literary landscape. Food, travel, and photography also inspire her creativity. She lives in Idaho with her wonderful husband and their demanding pets. You can connect with her at JeriWB.com where she pursues good writing in all its forms. Please explore her titles via Amazon. She also works as a freelance editor.

Blog: JeriWB Author & Editor http://jeriwb.com/

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Jeri-Walker-Bickett/e/B006UHV4CA

76 comments

    1. Speaking of kangaroos, I have a friend who spent time on a ranch as Australia as teenager. She has stories of going out at night and shooting kangaroos to rid the land of their pestilence. They became dog food for the ranch dogs. Try to fit that on a meme….

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      1. Yeparoonie Jen, macropods breed like flies! Usually they’ll have three on the go at a time, a young one beside them, one in the pouch and a fertilised embryo heading for the pouch. They’re not bad eating if you don’t mind your meat a bit gamey, I prefer camel myself. Nice writing btw.

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        1. I just read another blog the other day talking about kangaroo on the menu of a local restaurant (Switzerland) and I freaked out! I’d never heard of kangaroo as a food. Then again, I haven’t travelled outside the U.S.! and EW to camel!

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          1. Yeah, that’s a pretty normal reaction, but if you like beef then you’ll love camel…the trick is not to look them in the eye…and don’t name them, never name them. Kangaroo is quite difficult to get approved for human consumption because their a disease ridden bloody thing and if you don’t know what to look for you can be eating way more animals than just the ‘roo.

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            1. My cousin lives in Abu Dubai so I’ve heard of camel as a food before. I’m sure there are other countries that look at our meat consumption and do the EW at pigs or cows or whatever.
              I’m vegan…so no ‘roos for me. Or cows. Or any animal product. 🙂

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          2. I ate kangaroo burgers in Australia, and crocodile too! The kangaroo pretty much tasted like a burger, but I wasn’t a great fan of crocodile. The following day I went on a river trip through a croc infested river, and was paranoid they’d smell their buddy on my breath and get revenge…

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  1. I had to take a foundation degree for part if my former job. Funding got used, I didn’t even want it. Now it’s obsolete. Utter waste of time and only proved I could jump through hoops. Painful for someone who’s a self-confessed academic snob and really would like a full degree (and won’t afford one, tuition fees in England being what they are).

    On topic of your dire experience, at least it was only hours, not months, and you got a credit you wanted.

    I only hole the good professor gave his students a class feedback sheet as well as the worksheet! Maybe send him one anyway…

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    1. Lizz, oh yes there was a feedback sheet. I furiously filled it out using the teeny pencil provided. I suggested he check his ratings on the Rate my Professor site, but I doubt he will. I just don’t get how he could still be so horrible after being there since 2006. When I was in the classroom, I was always SUPER aware of when students thought I was being a total drag.

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  2. Many years ago, I took technical math as a summer course. This was probably the worst way for me to take such a course. The instructor was an older gentleman that spoke much the same as this one did for you. I spent most of the class sleeping. I don’t even think I bothered to hide it either.

    I did gain a few useful tidbits from the class though. One being trivia about the metric system. Did you know that the metric system is the actual official measuring system of the US. The only reason why it isn’t in common use is because we were used to using the English system.

    But our money is based on the metric system and our government institutions (military) use it for everyday tasks.

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    1. Jon, I’m trying to think if I even came away with an iota of useful info from this workshop… nope. And I took notes too! Oh wait, The Longest Day used four different directions from four different counties. That was vaguely interesting, though I can’t recall any of the movie because the bastard fast forwarded through most of it!

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  3. My junior year of college, I signed up for Philosophy ready to dig into all of the historical philosophers that I wanted to but didn’t quite fully understand. The professor was a short, round Asian man, and I was convinced at first glance, he would *teach* me so much. From the first day of class the only thing I learned was about his obsession with a red car that was parked outside the lecture hall. I spent the semester listening to him drone on and on about this red car, a car I never even saw with my own eyes. Needless to say, I learned so very little but still managed to get an A by working in that friggin red car into every single paper and essay, which was genius if you ask me.

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  4. Reading 100 short stories in a month is epic! Wow. That would be infuriating to spend that kind of money and your own time for a professor who was totally clueless that he was shortchanging any sort of true learning experience for the class. My mom taught IPC at the college for most of her 28 years and I sat in on some of them. Sooo much fun with all of the class interaction. Good post, Jeri! 🙂

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    1. Mike, signing up to read all those short stories proves I’m into torture. I’d much rather have a teacher who expects a lot than one who expects next to nothing. Rising to the occasion is no problem if that sort of expectation is in place from the beginning.

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  5. In my undergrad, I had the worst statistics professor who hated women. He told the pregnant girl in our class that she better pee on her own time and he gave me a lower letter grade for my final grade in the class because I was in a car accident and missed 2 days. We complained and the school did nothing. Ridiculous. Great post and thanks for sharing with us.

    Beth, thanks for the intro!

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    1. OHMYEVER! I cannot believe he wouldn’t let the pregnant girl pee!! That’s insane. What an asshat. Wow. I wonder why the exceptionally a-hole teachers never get in trouble? I’m sure you weren’t the first to complain. What a shame.

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    2. I had a technical writing professor who wasn’t sexist, but he did want students to worship the ground he walked on. First off, he was of the type who wrote the textbook for his own class and was well-known in the field. Second off, our team struggled to even earn a C until we signed-up for a couple of meetings with him. The quality of our work changed little, but in his eys, we had sought the approval and guidance of THE MASTER.

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  6. So would you rather have done the 100 short stories in a month again versus the boring weekend seminar? That’s quite a toss up! And yes, it’s the worst when you’re taking a class from a professor and it’s so obvious that it’s not where he wants to be. Especially on a weekend!

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  7. I too am an academic that enjoys the learning process. I truly can sympathize with your plight.

    That said I certainly have had my share of boring and bland. The one memorable experience was an 8am economics class. The fact that it was that early didn’t help. The professor spoke in a low monotone voice in an constant stream while writing on the whiteboard with his back to the class. 45 minutes later I can honestly say there were very few in the class that hadn’t or weren’t asleep. It was hard work not to. I was super lucky to have passed the class. 🙂

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    1. Susan, my second worst class ever just may be the 7 am math class I had to take on Tuesdays and Thursdays on semester. I had to leave by 630 every morning for the drive in. I hate math, and doing math that early in the morning was horrendous. Plus, it was math for liberal arts majors… you know for us folks are can’t add two plus two 😉

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    1. Honestly, just about anything can be an interesting subject if the teacher is good. I took statistics in college and had a great professor. I even enjoyed the class! I also had an amazing professor for economics, quite possible the least interesting subject to me on the planet. But somehow he made it not only understandable, but it didn’t suck!

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  8. Oh that sounds terrible, I’m so sorry! I took a Swedish class last year, which was taught by an extremely elderly lady who stood at the front of the class with her arms crossed, eyes shut and pretty much yelled a ten week monologue at us in Swedish as we all exchanged baffled looks. I didn’t learn a great deal of Swedish in the class, but it was highly entertaining in its own way…

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    1. Claire, I took German from an old Swiss guy. He only spoke lots of German with the one girl in class who had gone there in high school as an exchange student. His wife must have been 30 years younger than him. What I remember most is how his young daughter sometimes came to class with him. He only spoke French to her, and she answered in English. Must have been nice to have seven languages rattling around inside of his head….

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  9. It’s amazing how much the teacher matters when it comes to enjoying and getting something out of a class. Boring teachers can make awesome stuff plain old suck and good ones can make horrible classes really interesting. Bummer about your wasted weekend!!

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  10. I have encountered a few teachers/professors who were just like this one. They didn’t really teach or try to engage the class. It was more about just getting through the materials and regurgitating their viewpoint of the materials on everyone. Some days I felt like sticking needles in my eyes when in these classes!

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    1. The crazy thing to me is how most college professors never have to take classes in educational theory. It’s all about research and publishing papers to make the university look good. That’s not to say many don’t know about good teaching practices. I became a teacher because of the mentor I had for my M.A. when I was a teaching assistant for college composition classes.

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      1. There are definitely some good ones out there, and it seems you learned from one to emulate. I can bet you’re a cool teacher.

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  11. Ouch, that does sound awful. Did you get to submit anonymous class feedback?

    I once had a professor who fancied himself awesome, assigned his own textbook for the class (that was published in the Netherlands and cost $225 for 120 pages), and then lectured with his eyes closed. Experiences like that make good teachers all the more appreciated!

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    1. Laura, yep I got a small measure of revenge by filling out the eval at the end. I even think I’m going to make my first post on Rate my Professor as well. Books cost so much! The hardback book for one of my education classes was well over $200, so four of us split the cost and took turns making photocopies for everyone else.

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  12. I had a history professor who spent days teaching that slavery wasn’t that bad. The entire class would freeze, wanting for me to lose my composure. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction. Now I wish I would’ve.

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    1. It was straight up lecture. He was a graduate student, I think. You could hear a pin drop. It was very early on in my college career. I had no idea that I could’ve filed a complaint. I just stuck it out.

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  13. There was that insufferable economics teacher who announced on the first day of class how many people would get As and how many people would fail. If he’d been a more dynamic teacher, we might have surprised him.

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    1. Candy, kinda makes you wonder about how grades are doled out. One of my teachers I worked with during my student teaching NEVER put zeroes in the online grade book because parents would bitch that it was her fault for their kids not getting their work in. So everyone’s grade was the average of what they decided to turn in, not what they had to turn in. CRAZY!

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  14. I once had to watch The Importance of Being Earnest for an assignment and write a ten page report on it. I despised the movie when I had to watch for homework, but a few years ago I found it on HBO and loved it! It’s funny how things can seem laborious when one’s told to do something. Great guest post, Beth. Jeri rocks!

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    1. Thanks, ladies! Yes, Jeri does rock.

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Importance of Being Earnest, but I’ve heard of it. In fact, it’s so familiar I’m wondering if I did read/see it and just don’t remember.
      Ah, having no memory is highly entertaining sometimes. Everything’s a surprise.

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        1. Oh I love Colin Firth! Now I know I haven’t seen it cuz I would remember that line up. Reese is a fave, too. I’m sure I know who Rupert Everett is, I just can’t picture him at the moment. I’ll look for it on Netflix or cable. Thanks!

          Did you go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? I heard it was really good but haven’t been to see it yet. I love the original with Danny Kaye.

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    2. Inion, haha. I was always the student who was all like, “This is friggin’ awesome.” Didn’t matter what was being taught. No wonder why people hated me. Seriously though, when I was teaching English it dawned on me that it’s about the worst subject there is to teach. It’s so hard to get kids interested, but I did, and doing so was EXHAUSTING. Teaching science would be a lot more fun because of the hands-on aspect. Every where when I got out To Kill a Mockingbird there would be handful of students in each class who would flat-out state, “I’m not going to read that.” And they didn’t.

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      1. If I had had an English teacher that caught my interest it would’ve changed the trajectory of my entire life. I would’ve known 2 decades sooner that I was a writer. It’s okay, though. I was pretty unwilling at that age. Everything happens for a reason.

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  15. I think I had that guy for an Algebra teacher! Then again I thought ALL of my math teachers spoke like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and Math to me is THEE language of boring. Nice post, and “general murdering of movie enjoyment” had me cracking up!

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    1. Joy, Algebra I is the only class I ever failed and had to take over. The second teacher made all the difference. The first one was a retiree who had no clue how to show concepts and she would just get pissed off if someone didn’t understand how she did things on the board.

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  16. Great post, Jeri! I had some really horrid instructors who thrived on belittling students who struggled in class It was very damaging and to this day I still have confidence issues because of some of these people. Incredible how much impact a teacher has on a student!

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    1. Piper, once my credit shows up on my transcript, I’ll definitely leave a comment on Rate my Professor. Based on how bad the professor was, it appears he probably doesn’t make much of the class evals that are filled out at the end of the workshop. If I was truly evil, I would send him a link to this post!

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