Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Telephone

I've been remiss about posting Sunday Scribblings the last few weeks. So this week's prompt, "telephone" compels me to write something.

When I was a graduate teaching assistant, my second semester, I had a really good class. They were enthusiastic and willing to debate anything at the drop of a hat, and I often found the 50 minute classes flying by. They were, obviously, very communicative--some more so than others. Much more so.

At the beginning of the semester, I took time to go over ways to contact me, stressing the importance of communicating with their instructor. Missing an assignment due to a family emergency was a whole lot different from ditching Friday classes because of Thirsty Thursday, but without communication, I couldn't know the difference.

One student was very diligent about informing me of his whereabouts and progress. Five minutes before class, I'd get a call, informing me he was in the writing center, making last minute changes or else he had had an appointment in another city and would be late. Late is late, and unless it was a school-sponsored absence or tardiness, it still went down in the record book, but bless his heart, he kept me informed of what seemed like his every move.

Here's the point where I mention one other relevant detail: I shared a phone line with three other GAs, and whoever was quickest on the draw would catch it. I, erm, often was not swift to pick up the phone. Willingly so.

After several such calls, a fellow GA finally asked if it was the same student who kept asking for Ms. Twit. I answered in the affirmative. She was, I think, somewhat in awe and definitely amused. I told her that the student must've had my office number programmed into his speed dial.

One afternoon, I was holding tutorials. Inevitably, the students who sign up for 8:00 a.m. tutorial slots show up at 7:45, and the last few afternoon appointments run 10 minutes late. My communicative student was, I believe, the last one for the afternoon, and I wanted to go and grab a late lunch.

He called, running late. I grudgingly agreed to wait, as it was the last day of tutorials, it wasn't exactly like he was a complete no-show, and I was/am a bit of a softie. Five minutes passed. A call. Something came up, he was so sorry, but he was back on track, again, so sorry, Ms. Twit, but he's on the way with the building in sight.

I decided to run down the hall and snag a couple Starbursts from the English department to tide me over until I ate (Starbursts, coffee, and Mountain Dew were about 50% of my grad school nutritional intake). When I got back, my fellow GA was trying to hold back a grin.

You just missed a call from your student, she told me. He wanted to let you know he's on the stairs now.

Yep, I'm pretty sure my office number must've been on speed dial.

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Greyscale Territory said...

This is incredible! As a teacher myself, I am also seeking out ways of communicating with teenagers.

Loved this post!


texasblu said...

LOL!!! I can't imagine! A little OCD with the phone... Really enjoyed reading this!

Medhini said...

That made an interesting read! but so many calls would have cracked my nerves....

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed this one - it reminded me of my 2 semesters as a TA. That was around 1980, though, so phoning was an entirely different thing...