One of the videos that cropped up while I was hunting links for my previous post on the Mad Tea Party features this poor Mad Hatter from Disneyland, trying to deal with an awfully apathetic crowd. By the end, I was having flashbacks to those days when the students just. won't. respond. to anything you do. (Although I've never tried singing. Or toy teacups. And I've never hugged anyone in relief, either.) My professorial readers will know what I mean:
PROFESSOR: Hey out there! I'm standing here projecting energy in your direction! *project* *project* *project*
PROFESSOR: Would it help if I juggled these dry-erase markers?
PROFESSOR: What if I do my best imitation of Johnny Cash? I'm dressed entirely in black anyway...
PROFESSOR: *experiences existential crisis, opts to become a plumber instead*
On two occasions, I've broken down in despair and climbed on top of the desk. The first time was in an 8:15 AM freshman comp course (this is what happens when you're new and not around to request your schedule...) during a truly thrilling discussion of prepositions. (Ahem.) This is what happened:
ME: *ongoing demonstration of what prepositions do*
STUDENTS: *general somnolence*
ME: *desperate, standing on the desk* Dr. Burstein is on the desk...
STUDENTS: *mild bemusement* Huh. Dr. Burstein is on the desk.
A colleague later reported that someone else had spotted me through the classroom door's window, returned to the department office, and announced, "That class is either going really well or really badly, because Burstein is standing on the desk!" Which was more of a reaction than I got from the students.
The second time involved students who were usually quite responsive, but had unanimously voted that day to doze off during whatever it was we were discussing (it was intro to lit analysis, so probably a poem). I "lecture" by asking lots of questions, so if nobody responds, I have to start tap dancing. Or, in this case, sleeping:
ME: This X here is really odd, because Y. What do you think is going on here?
ME: Have we seen X happening before? Is it doing something different this time?
*rinse, repeat ad nauseam*
ME: *crawls on top of desk, lies down, and starts Zzzzzz-ing*
Pretending to doze off actually worked that time, but I suspect it's what you'd call a nuclear option. In any event, the video clip reminded me that even if you don't think about yourself as an "entertainer," there remains considerable overlap between classroom instruction and performance.