Forgetful, curt, frigid.
Those are only a few of the shining adjectives I can think of to describe my professor. A self-assured, no-nonsense middle-aged woman has been the bane of my existence this semester and ironically, one of the most intriguing parts of it. In much the same way that a sore muscle feels painfully pleasurable, I've found myself utterly annoyed (sometimes downright angered by) my professor and her mannerisms, yet enjoying every minute of the class, nonetheless.
On the first day of class, we never really know what to expect. Most of the time, we're neither disappointed nor surprised, but on the first day of the spring semester, I found myself experiencing both emotions in the most perplexing of ways. She showed up fifteen minutes late and ended the class 30 minutes early... delightfully surprising, along with her thick, Mediterranean accent that somehow conveyed to me the air of self-possession that she would carry herself with throughout the entire semester. An air that makes for a passionate, assertive professor that has the power to captivate an entire room.
However, as I stared down at my unstapled six-page syllabus, eccentrically adorned with a grading scale that included an E grade (and no, the E did not stand for "elective"), and observed the nonchalant way she brushed off our questions and exited the class before even half of us were out of the room, I felt the disappointment settle deep into my bones and the knowledge that I would have a less-than-put-together professor creep into my mind.
I was not wrong about my assumption.
I first started to get irritated with her when she entered the wrong grade in the gradebook... and then argued with me for five hours via email about how the mistake was somehow my fault.
Then, I started to get upset with her when she decided to play the role of Petty Betty after our email run-in, and call on me every single day in class, only when my hand wasn't raised.
The passive-aggressiveness was easy to spot. I'm already quiet in person, but to be put on the spot when clearly I have no idea how the hell to answer her question, really ground my gears. Not one for confrontation, I just ignored it and made sure that I always showed up to class extra prepared to speak.
I finally felt my irritation slip into anger when I observed one of her exchanges with another student, where she accused her of standing her up on their meeting, although the student denied ever setting one up with her. She even showed my professor her complete list of sent emails, showing that they never spoke about meeting after class. Yet, my professor couldn't let it go and insisted that the girl had to be wrong. I had to roll my eyes and shake my head at the whole thing. Clearly, my professor lived a frazzled life and somehow felt it appropriate to put the blame on her students. The terrible thing about extremely self-possessed people is that their unceasing belief in themselves makes it hard to see when they should question themselves.
I think my professor has a lot to question about some of her current teaching methods, like why her syllabus includes grades that don't exist, or why she never gives us rubrics or outlines for our assignments — or better yet, why the deadlines of our project keeps changing, despite the fact that we've all complained about it.
But despite all of her flaws, I'll be damned if I don't say she's not an excellent professor. In my two years at Rutgers, I have to say she's the best one I've ever had.
When I slip into my seat at 9:15 a.m., I know that I'm going to walk out with a firmer understanding of the world and my place in society. It is because of the intelligent, ardent, and honest discussions that we've had in class that I walk away each week feeling more and more "woke." It is because of the fire in my professor's eyes and her dedication to holding others accountable, that I have questioned myself, the institutions that make up our society, and my own choices more than I ever have before in my life (and I consider myself a pretty cynical bit*h).
She has the power to take a concept that I already know and understand, and speak about it in a way that transforms it into something completely new.
She has the power to make us think and when it feels like the only thing that matters about a class is whether or not you pass it, it's pretty darn refreshing to be immersed in an environment where your focus is solely on the content and not your grade.
If I met my professor in any other context, there's a good chance I would've liked her.
There's no doubt she's intelligent, and on the off chance that she does crack a smile, it really does light up a room. However, in the context that we did meet, I much rather would've preferred a more easygoing, structured, and accountable person. But alas, we can't all live up to other people's expectations. Although I would like to trade her personality for those of my other professors in the past, she's given me something that no other has (at least, not on such a tremendous scale), and that is a lens to think critically about and observe the world around me in a way that I didn't know was possible.
And if I had a choice between a nice, lackluster professor, and a hard-ass, yet impeccable one — well, I'd pick the hard-ass every time.