Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Memorable student encounters on the first day of class

On the way to university today, a young woman stepped out onto the road in front of my bicycle without looking. I swerved to avoid her, which could have ended up nastily if there had been any traffic behind me at the time. She gave me the fingers, which I considered uncalled for, so I swore at her and returned the gesture.

Later this morning, guess who showed up in my class? StyleyGeek makes a good first impression, oh yes indeedy.

I also made a memorable impression on the student standing nearest to me before class while we waited for the lecture theatre to empty. She looked young and scared and eventually asked me tentatively, "Is this your first linguistics class too?"
"Actually, I'm the lecturer," was probably not the response she was expecting.

I already had a bunch of students email to ask if they missed anything important today. I would have treated this as a serendipitous teaching moment, and explained who to contact when you miss a class (your classmates: ask for notes) and who not to contact (your lecturer: she's not paid enough to reteach the class just for you), but unfortunately they DIDN'T miss anything important. This is because I had to cancel the lecture due to a 30+ difference between the number of seats in the venue and the number of students who showed up. If all my enrollments had been present, we would have had an even bigger problem: to the tune of 50 more students than seats. As it was, 30 students were standing crowded into the aisles and couldn't see past each other, so there wasn't much point in going ahead with the lecture.

Our ever-so-helpful Head of School had apparently approved the venue on the logic that plenty of students drop in the first few weeks, so EVENTUALLY the room will be the right size.

In other student news, I just went down to my local supermarket, and spotted someone shopping with the shopping basket in one hand, and the textbook for my course clutched in the other. Perhaps she likes linguistics and is scared of supermarkets, and the textbook was functioning as some sort of security blanket. Or maybe she was just taking it out for an airing. I hope she bought it a chocolate bar for good behaviour.

14 Comments:

JustMe said...

re: fingers, was it a two-handed flip off? and i think she should feel embarrassed, not you! btw, your head of school sounds super smart.

Jana said...

I have difficulty imagining you giving someone the fingers and swearing. I've been trying to, but my imagination fails me.

And as for the person in the supermarket - is it possible that the unexpected popularity of your course means that supermarkets are now stocking your book?

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I think your "extra" students without chairs should go to the head of school's office and "borrow" the chairs in his office for class...

I suppose the prospect of not having a seat will create an incentive to be on time to class.... maybe you'll need to do some kind of Southwest Airlines boarding pass system (where they get to go into the classroom in groups, maybe arranged by GPA instead of time of arrival at the airport, to choose their seats...).

CAE said...

I'm sure the bike accident student was more embarrassed about her first impression than you were!

justme, I couldn't get your profile link to work but I assume you're in North America? In NZ, the UK and I'm sure lots of other countries, you hold up 2 fingers instead of 1 as an insult. (A reversed peace sign). I believe it's something to do with the French army cutting those two fingers off any captured English archers so they couldn't shoot any more. The unscathed English archers would then wave those two fingers back at the French at the beginning of a battle - "we've still got our fingers, you're going to die in a hail of arrows" and all that.

I once worked in a cinema in Ohio where the sound system in the ticket booth was terrible and people had to mime what they wanted. Almost every person who bought 2 tickets from me that summer effectively told me to f*** off. The only good thing was that I got to do it back in full knowledge of what it meant!

grace said...

CAE, we certainly also give each other the finger, down here in NZ and Australia...uh, well you get what I mean!

StyleyGeek said...

Yes, okay, actually I gave her the fingER. But there's no way to say that, unless, I suspect, you're American. I think we tend to say "giving someone the fingers" even when we do mean we just used one.

StyleyGeek said...

The more I look at that phrase, the weirder it seems. Now I have visions of people handing each other severed appendages.

But it really is a real phrase, right, NZers?

Psycgirl said...

That is a very interesting first day!

grace said...

BTW, Justme, I'd love to know what "a two-handed flip-off" is. it sounds like gymnastics ;-)

StyleyGeek said...

I agree, Grace! :)

JustMe said...

ok, so the fingers are kind of like the horns. pointer and pinky, yes?

see, i imagined the double flip off as styley riding her bike with ni hands and holding up two hands, each with "the finger", though i think the gymanstics idea sounds even better!

StyleyGeek said...

Oh dear. No no no no no. I see I'm going to have to give lessons.

JaneB said...

giving someone the fingers is a real phrase in the UK, and done as styley explains - forefinger ('pointer') and middle finger extended in a v, other fingers curled, back of hand towards the offending person (palm towards person being signed is a positive message in the UK - V-for-Victory - see WWII Winston Churchill images).

'horns' as described by Justme (forefinger and little finger - pointer & pinkie) extended, other fingers curled - is usually held out flat, back of hand up, pointing at someone/something to ward off the evils (maybe this is a semi-pagan version of making a cross with your forefingers?) or waved around to imply that someone is being cuckolded ('wearing the horns' is another phrase for that).

At least, that's how I understand these gestures!

Forefinger only pointing up usually means 'what's the weather like' (testing for wind direction with one wetted finger) or 'hang on a minute', middle finger extended and reversed hand (back of hand to viewer) is I think the American gesture for a phrase something like 'sit on this'? One some of the students use occasionally but not in use where I grew up...

The History Enthusiast said...

I'm with janeb and CAE...when I moved to England for study abroad I learned about the reverse peace sign, and me and my female friends even used it a couple of times when the British men were catcalling us.

I too heard the story about cutting off the fingers of archers.

As for the horns described by justme, the forefinger and pinky up with the thumb out is sign language for "I love you," while forefinger and pinky up with thumb tucked in is sign language for "devil" or "Satan." At least, that's what I remember from my short time in a sign language class in junior high.

P.S. I can't believe that your uni doesn't have enrollment caps! That's crazy!