how dumb can you go?

The challenge of late has been of trying to dumb down things to newer depths (heights?). For some reason, students find my exam questions very hard. And I am not saying this in a way of boasting. Rather, I am chagrined. I mean, I have tried to teach them. Jah knows I’ve tried.

So what seems to be the problem then?

 The road to hell is paved with good intentions and I have not been the best of teacher to them. What proof do I have of my incompetence? You mean besides their sucky grades – which I take full responsibility for – and all them awful classes when I went on and on and they slept on and on, eyes closed or not? I happen to be a friend of a guy whose wife’s cousin – once removed’s daughter is sleeping with a man who is in good terms with the person who is in charge of student evaluation of teachers. The grading part on the first page was a very left-sided affair, if you know what I mean. And reading the written comments on the second page, I felt the way I did when I tried to see myself in the mirror one morning  and my face was missing and I was like “ who the fuck took my face?!” and all the while the mirror was facing the wrong way.

But this time, the feeling was more intense – it was like l had lost my soul.

Imagine preparing questions for a final exam after all this: after analyzing their earlier grades and the associated complaints; after getting a sneak preview of the evaluation of your being; after learning that you are negatively affecting the lives of a good part of 88 people and making a fool of yourself in the process; after arguing with yourself that you had no right to right the wrongs of your student years through your students; after admitting the possibility of your students being way more than you give them credit for and that you are holding them back from realizing their full potentials; after an assortment of thoughts and feelings and what not…

This time, I succeeded in dumbing it down to their satisfaction. I am not saying my students are dumb – they just like dumb. We all used to like dumb at a certain point in our lives and most of us still do. But as a teacher, there is that urge – at least for me – to try and prepare exam questions that you believe are the right sort of questions to ask – evaluations and debasement notwithstanding – and more often than not, your questions come off as difficult. This was the urge I had so valiantly resisted to let them have their way.

Watching some of them in action during the viva voces was a delight and it would be a great honor if I have at all contributed something to their performance. And to the not so good performers, I wish I could have done more  in class  to pull them away from the D’s and F’s.

Now they are in their well-deserved vacations. I never thought I would say this but, I kind of miss them. They were my first students, man!

I used to think that my life as a teacher could be represented by this curve, which I would like to call a t-t curve:

A would be a period of constant improvement, both professionally and personally. This improvement would level off during B and the amount of alcohol that I consume would increase dramatically (a separate graph, ladies and gentlemen) owing to the lack of newness and the waning of the high stepping out after class  used to give me. This is the period when I would do everything mechanically, without the involvement of the heart. And since I will have no use for it, I would pawn my heart for a couple of drinks. Of course, I could stop teaching and try something new, like singing. Stage fright would be gone and my voice well tuned by then. But I do not see an end to this copyright issue anytime soon so, in all likelihood, I am going to remain a teacher. C is the time when I will meet that person who would initiate me into a new religion or else, a new substance of abuse. I would soar to new heights and at my peak,  I would get vertigo just from looking down at myself on both sides of the hill. D would represent the period of my downfall. It would happen so fast that experts would be hard-pressed to identify what caused the crash.

I wish it was that easy! I swear teaching is  an emotional roller coaster that the graph be like this sometimes:

  • As a child, I used to hate tena adam. But I am so loving it right now that I would gladly douse myself in a tena adam scented deodorant if there was one. As a matter of fact, there should be one! 

  • A monk from one of the monasteries on Lake Tana put a plea on a newspaper for people to help him go abroad and get medical attention that Etyopia is unable to provide. Now, as a person, I do dig him totally. But as a monk, he is not exactly inspiring confidence in the afterlife. I thought memenen was showing contempt for the world and waiting for the Lord in secluded prayer. Now that the time has come to meet his savior, he wants to stay just a lil bit longer?!  

Am I cruel or insensitive or both or both and more?



6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. getere
    May 28, 2010 @ 19:58:19

    that was the back of your head. you need to turn the mirror to see your face.

    everyone has that fall in their lives. but you know what the best thing is? look at the time axis. you didn’t know the actual time for the transition points. as long as you manage to push the fall from C to D sufficiently further away, you will die before reaching D.

    i like the guy walking out of the graph 😀 he’s like “edalebign ende?” 🙂

    my grandma likes tenadam. we have tenadam tree at home. she puts it in her tea.

    COIKS has become one of my favorite terms. It stands for Clear Only If Known Syndrome. It’s when you read a book, nothing makes sense, someone then explains to you what it’s about, and then it all makes sense. some teachers have that problem too.


  2. semenawork
    May 26, 2010 @ 20:35:16

    LOL! Tibebe…your article itself took me on a rollercoaster…much like the one teaching takes you on…LOL about the left-sided evaluation sheets 🙂 🙂

    Many times I’ve felt like this…my only consolation is that it is living through dilemmas like this that will one day make me above them, even though there are those who tell me, the more you know, the more you’re hard put taking a side.

    I hope you don’t give up because you sound like a real good teacher to me with all your confusion on how to best go about things. Just don’t go drinking after class like you said, that will take away your naivety, which beautifully looks from here that you have lots of.


    • tibebe
      May 27, 2010 @ 14:09:01

      First off, let me congratulate you on registering the 1000th comment on this blog! Here is to hoping that you will be the one registering the 10,000th 😀

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! Your comment meant so much, coming on the day I had the most awful class of my fledgling – if it is fledgling at all- teaching career. I failed in enabling them to grasp the fundamentals of the day, misled those who had grasped the fundamentals by their own efforts, and that curse was still following me – the curse of being unable to answer their questions adequately. Maybe I am low in self-confidence and fear that I will not be able to answer whatever they dish out. They expect me to dumb down things when each one of their questions is harder than the last. No fair!

      Knowledge – I know I will never get to attain it. And I fear that I will forever remain confused. What I hope is that I would make my peace with the confusion, and look good confused; you know, kinda make confusion sexy 😐

      And don’t worry about the drinking. I don’t hit the bottle/glass that much. I even remember the flower patterns of the glasses from which I drank the few times I did it.

      I am just saying it could happen.


  3. Maki
    May 21, 2010 @ 09:00:23

    I like ur stream of consciousness, must be a chaotic paradise in ur head


    • tibebe
      May 21, 2010 @ 14:36:35

      i am searching for the definitions of “stream of consciousness” and “chaotic paradise”. i will take your comment as a compliment in the meantime, thank you! 🙂


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