The Writing Program employs a goodly number of teaching assistants. Since teaching assistants are not professors or anything like that, they have officially to be supervised. I’ve been doing that–supervising–for a number of years. I can’t remember how many. Any way the last couple of weeks I have been visiting the classes of "my" TAs.
I try to make these "visits" as low key as possible. I always hated–back in the day–being visited myself. Some professor would come in, sit in the back, and stare at you the whole time. One time a Professor came in and sat in the front row and acted throughout the class like the most bored student possible. There he was–right in front of me–crossing and uncrossing his legs, and drumming his fingers on the desk, and yawning! This did absolutely nothing for my confidence. I don’t know what that guy’s trip was. I think he was a sadist.
So when I "visit" I try to blend in. I sit over in the corner with my back against the wall, with a pad of paper in front of me; I scribble stuff on that, pretending to take notes. Some times, if the TA is trying to have a discussion, I will participate and throw in my two cent’s worth, and if the students get into groups to do some group stuff, I will go sit with the groups and participate while they do whatever they are supposed to be doing.
I tell my TAs to be sure to tell the class who I am and why I am there. I don’t want any of the students wasting their attention wondering what that old gray haired fart is doing in the room.
One TA, as a way of teaching literary interpretation (genre and such), had his class view "Halloween," the original one with Jamie Lee (Scream and Scream Again) Curtis. That is one slow movie by modern horror standards, and then to elaborate on a point about how these films create their particular sense of dread, he had students view a clip from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," again the original directed by Tobe Hooper (the TA is a purist when it comes to horror).
He made good points as he went along and the student discussion was lively. But I gritted my teeth the whole time. The fact is I couldn’t do what he was doing. I mean I couldn’t show a horror film without worrying about freaking somebody out (I know the TA always asks his students to let him know if they have any problems with horror). So I asked a couple of students near me if they had any trouble watching that stuff.
They looked askance. What? That move? That was nothing. They had been raised watching "Saw."
I felt in the presence of a multi-dimensional generation gap. First I could not teach what the TA was teaching and I had to turn "Saw" off half way through.
These visits are making me feel more and more like a ghost.
Oh! The horror!