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Embarrassing teaching moments

I think I mentioned this topic in a previous essay and promised that I’d write about it soon. To meet that promise, it seems like I should take it on now.

Teachers screw up. Okay, that’s not necessarily true. Some teachers screw up. I certainly screw up. I say things that sound horrible in retrospect. I mispronounce names [1]. Once in a while, I get things wrong, and teach students something incorrect. (Usually, I fix those screwups.) And, while those situations are somewhat embarrassing, they are also part of the normal job.

I have a fairly high threshold for embarrassment. I wear a Tigger suit in class. I joke about my weight and about my dad jokes [2]. I’m willing to spend class time on Friday talking about students drinking and being intimate.

In spite of that, there are times I do things that are so embarrassing that they’ll stick with me.

In spite of my joke about it above, I hate that I mix up student names much too often. I can distinguish my students (or at least I think I can, with the exception of a few sets of twins), but my brain sometimes pulls out the name of another student. And, unfortunately, it seems to happen again and again with the same pairs of students. I make jokes about it, but I get embarrassed.

The event that sticks with me the most, though, happened early in the days of the Web. It was early enough that Google was new [3]. One of the fun things you could do with Google at the time was type More evil than Satan and click I feel lucky. What do you think would happen? That’s right, it would bring you to the Microsoft home page [4]. I thought I’d show that to my class. And so, on the projection screen, I typed it out … More evil than Stan.

What happens if you type that and click I feel lucky? Yes, that’s right, you are lucky enough to get the most common page on the Interweb: Porn. On the big screen. In front of your whole class. That’s not really very lucky, is it? I guess I’m lucky that students knew it was an accident.

So, that’s probably my most embarrassing teaching moment. I hope you found it funny.

Unfortunately, I had a similar experience a month or so ago. I’m teaching an online class. We were having an online Skype session and talking about possible collaborative projects. I suggested that we try a form of exquisite corpse. Since they had not heard of that, I suggested that they look at the Wikipedia page. I pasted in the URL. Did you know that when you paste in a URL, Skype pulls up the first image on the page? Did you know that the first image on the Wikipedia page for Exquisite corpse has a sketch of a naked woman’s breasts?

I know that nakedness is healthy and that we should embrace the human body, particularly in art. I know that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about bringing up such pictures in class. But, when it happens accidentally, rather than purposefully [5], it is embarrassing.

Will I continue to make mistakes in class? Certainly. Will I continue to mispronounce student names while I’m trying to learn them, and perhaps thereafter? Certainly. Will I continue to confuse student names? I will try not to, but I’m getting older and my brain is slowly deteriorating. Will I inadvertently show porn in class again? I really hope not. Will I do something equally stupid and embarrassing. Probably. We’ll see. If I’m still writing, I’ll write about it.

[1] Sometimes I mispronounce them enough that they sound like someone else’s name.

[2] Forthcoming essay!

[3] Yes, there was a point in which Google was the new search engine in town. At that point, most people used Alta Vista.

[4] Yes, there was a point in which Microsoft was more evil than Google.

[5] Have I purposefully shown pictures of naked people in class? I don’t think so, but I do have a slide show of artworks that I borrowed from a colleague in Studio Art, so perhaps I have.

Version 1.0 of 2016-10-09.