One year, during a meeting of some sort, the Assistant Director of Composition (and therefore one of my bosses) leaned over to me and whispered, "Mike, you're the meanest son of a bitch in this department."
At the time, I took it as a point of pride. After all, I had a certain history professor in my background who regularly utilized what later would be called a "shock and awe" approach in his pedagogy. This certainly worked for me; not only did I learn an awful lot about Russian and Soviet history (which I unfortunately have never been able to put to use), I also learned many more important lessons on how to study, read, and write at a college level. Would such lessons sunk in if the teacher were instead "Mr. Nice Guy?" Somehow, I doubt it...and I pattern an awful lot of my teaching style based on this teacher.
The other day, however, after I finished a student paper conference, a colleague stuck his head in my office and told me that I sounded like I was slipping, because I sounded courteous and helpful...nice, even. He then mockingly asked me if I wanted to sign up for high school teaching. Unfortunately, he then ducked out of the doorway before I could throw my printer at him.
Is it true? Am I changing into a Mr. "Save the World"/Kumbaya-singing hippie teacher?
There are unfortunately several danger signs. I actually had my Spring semester book order turned in long before our bookstore started sending its regularly scheduled threatening e-mails. And just a few minutes ago, I somehow found myself turning in my yearly evaluation material well in advance of the deadline.
What in the hell is happening to me?
I can see it all coming together through my terror-filled eyes. Pretty soon, I might ask my students to address me by first name. Maybe I'll give extra credit assignments. Is wearing a suit to work really that far behind?
When I lose the fear, the bile, and the attitude, will there be anything left?