Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One of the Worst Profs I Ever Had



While writing the last post, I was reminded of my crazy-ass Italian teacher from undergrad. So, I figured I'd write about her.

[I must warn you. This post is full of digressions. Sorry. I can't help it.]

I must start by telling you that my mother graduated with a degree in Italian from the same institution of higher learning I ended up attending (full academic scholarship = no choice but to go). Back in the archaic days of the mid-90s, for some reason my U. was still using the face-to-face method for class registration for the first quarter; after that, it was all by phone. Needless to say, I got screwed with my registration time and was one of the last of the 900 students in my class to go into the gym, running from table to table to get stickers saying I was in a class.

I go to the Italian Department table with every intention of signing up with this amazing professor both my mom and dad had for Italian. Unfortunately, through some weird set of circumstances that I still do not understand to this day, I ended up in La Pazza's class. (We'll just call her that, 'kay?)

La Pazza is a highly respected, award-winning poet in Italy. I know this because she won some award while I was taking her class and some of the best days of that quarter were when class was canceled because she was in Rome.

Anyway, I signed up for Italian I, this language that I had always wanted to take but they didn't offer it at my high school, so I got really screwed and took French instead. I actually wanted to take Spanish, but they put me in French. I wonder if I called my high school's registrar and told her what that led to--me getting a PhD in which I must know the French language--if she would not feel so bad about sticking people in their second choice classes? Of course, it took me, oh ten years to realize the good in having taken French. Okay. Moving on. I swear.

I take Italian I and we're in this great little 19th c. building in which my Dad says people used to smoke cigars and cigarettes during class when he was there, with windows overlooking these expansive gardens full of rose bushes and no air-conditioning. It's warm outside for most of fall quarter, so we all get into this classroom on the third floor and immediately open the windows. Inevitably, La Pazza would sashay through the door covered from head to toe in flowing garments, with about 20 scarves on and she'd immediately shut the damned windows, mumbling something about it being "chilly, no?" 'Scuse me? It's like 90 degrees outside and you're cold?!? And then we sat there for the longest hour and ten minutes of my life. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Baking in that room smelling of stank and boredom.

We tried to convince her over the 3 quarters (yes, 3. don't ask.) that I was in her class to no avail. She was cold and would have those windows closed, even if Dante himself told her she should open them because she'd move up a couple of levels in hell.

And there were those would-be glorious days. Those days when we finished early and we all looked at her with hope brimming in our eyes. "Per piacere, La Pazza! Let us out early! Class is over in 7 minutes anyway!" Ah, those days! She would just look about the room somewhat blankly, after checking her watch and then...and then! She would tell us to turn to the next chapter and read quietly. Until the goddamned class was over.

But then, I learned the trick. Oh yes. I hated that class so much (not Italian, mind you, just the class) that I learned that as long as I regularly attended the first and last 2 weeks of class and any midterm/quiz day, I could still get an A. I mean, yeah, I had to study and shit on my own, which was fine. As long as I did well on my tests, I got an A. It was better than sitting in that room and I still went for more than half the class days (she says defensively). I know, I know, I was a bad student who was not upholding the Jesuit ideals of learning, but don't hire people like that! Sheesh!

That is why to this day, I will NEVER make my students stay if we are done with everything we have to do. Fie on all of those people who say you must keep them so they do not expect to get out early all the time! I refuse to subject others to such cruelty.

amen.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Wow, who else would give me the much-welcome distraction of reading about a crazy menopausal Italian teacher.

I hope you have a good weekend. I'm spending quality time with Durand's Rationale Divinorum Officiorum...a fascinating read, I assure you. Yes, you guessed it...back to EVIL CHAPTER ONE. If I get through this one I don't really care about the rest of the damn dissertation (ok, so not really).