So…How Are We Doing Here?

…is a question you don’t hear much at the doctor anymore. That’s because the royal “we,” eyes averted, is no longer standard practice in medicine. It’s all about EYE CONTACT, saying “HELLO,” talking about serious, real things, being honest about bad news, but compassionate. I know this because I recently had a miscarriage and every single person at the doctor’s office was obviously trained to deal with this situation in a compassionate but professional way (their responses were similar enough that it couldn’t have just been natural empathy). As I got response after response from undergrads convinced their professors “hated” them (and thus they felt justified in excoriating them in evaluations, just to get some attention), I realized: if doctors can learn bedside manner, why can fake doctors (WHICH I SAY IN JEST, as a nod to my previous “Instructor Staff” piece) not learn social skills?

This is what I explore today in Slate.

12 thoughts on “So…How Are We Doing Here?

  1. Yes, absolutely. Talk to undergrads like the people they are! They might be failing class because they never do homework, but try chatting for a few minutes with one of them as you leave class together and find out how their semester is going. They may still fail, but they’ll know you care, and that might be enough to get them back into your class the next semester after they pull their lives together a bit. Look around before or after class and see who’s reading something. Find out what it is. Textbook, Twilight, whatever. We can talk about books with anybody. It’s the one useful thing we learned to do in grad school.


  2. One quibble with your (as usual) spot-on Slate piece. Academia is increasingly NOT a place for the introvert academic but for the GREGARIOUS, MEDIA SAVVY SUPERSTAR (and not always, but frequently, it includes the not so original scholar who is an otherwise cutthroat savvy career politician). Not meeting students/being available to them is very often a function of arrogance, not shyness.


      • Is it that I am in a language department that my experience has been that there is less awkwardness at my SLAC than my R1 degree granting institution?

        Example: My SLAC colleagues are all real people with interests and who like to do things like go bowling and laugh at jokes. At my R1, a friend of mine went to meet one of the profs and he sat in his dark office grinning at her while she squirmed and waited to see if he would turn on a light.

        I’ve no idea if this would be the case if I were in a hard science or something.


  3. I’m so sorry about your miscarriage.

    I have been a little embarrassed over the years to find that responding kindly to student reports of catastrophe reveals that many more of them are real than I imagined back when I was inexperienced and thus concerned to be gimlet-eyed and not let students “get one over” on me. And actually taking all of them seriously and kindly is more likely to result in students feeling embarrassed and sort of knocking it off about invented crises than going all “prove it” on them (which just makes them double down even on ridiculous opening gambits). So, yeah.


    • I’m not even talking about being a pushover about their Hoof-in-Butt disease or whatever. I’m just talking about making eye contact in class and asking them how they’re doing.


  4. weird, being a person.

    my first question, first day, is pretty much always ‘how yall doin?’ and on from there.


  5. Yep, the #1 thing I learned about teaching had nothing to do with lesson plans, exams, grading, or class management. No, I had to learn how to respond empathetically no matter what. “You don’t have your essay? Aw, too bad! The dog ate it? Sorry your dog is so mean! Well, you can just hand it in late.” And then while smiling: “Although it’s a drag to get a late penalty it’s still much better than not turning it in. So, you’ll bring it tomorrow? Great!” Then somehow they hate you less.


Hello. I "value" your comment. (No, really, I do!) Please don't be a dick, though.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s