Bob was my master's project advisor. I studied wavelets, something neither of us had any previous knowledge of, and we spent most of our weekly meetings with me teaching him what I learned from the text. He was the one professor I asked to write a letter of recommendation for me for my first and second teaching jobs. Moreover, he gave me a copy of the letter to keep - something he wasn't required to do. The letter impressed my potential employers and made my heart swell and my eyes fill. When I came back to school, he was still there and still someone who was proud of me, even more so because I was coming back after being away for six years and basically starting from scratch. It is a great honor to me that a full professor, who is forty years my senior, thinks enough of me as a teacher and a student to ask me to call him by his nickname, as if I were a friend and colleague.
Now, having said all the serious stuff, we entertain each other when we get together and chat. We commiserate as well, as he was one of the trio that designed and first taught the elementary ed math classes I currently teach. He understands the unique frustrations that come with that type of class. He's the only professor I can talk to about it since Cecelia retired. Cecelia was my undergrad mentor. The last time I called her Doctor, she said, "Rachel, we're colleagues. Just call me Cecelia." Again, deeply honored, especially knowing what her life has been like, but that is for another post.
To get on with my story...one afternoon, I stopped by Bob's office to ask him to serve on my dissertation committee. After signing the form, we chatted, during the course of which I informed him that the department was no longer going to offer Math 210 - the probability, statistics, and algebra course in the elementary ed sequence.
Bob: Why the hell not?
Me: There isn't anyone to teach it now that Cecelia retired. I'm sure you don't want to do it every semester.
Bob: God no. One needs a break from such things. No one will teach it? Not even Wei Shen?
Me: He's too busy giving me and Katherine a break from 209. You know, not just anyone can teach these classes.
Bob: No. Can you imagine someone like Starvos teaching that class?
Me: (snort) That would be a disaster. You've got to have someone nice, compassionate, and willing to do all that grading.
Bob: Well, when I teach it, I only half-ass it. (Keep in mind, this man is over sixty and wears bobble antennae to class on Halloween) I suppose half-assing it is better than no-assing it.
Me: (chuckling) I would think no-assing would be far better than half-assing.
Bob: (rubs his goatee) Hmm, you think so?
Me: Sure. Which would you prefer: ass or no ass?
Bob: (chuckling too) I see. I suppose I should've said 'full-assing it.'
Me: (laughing enough for my eyes to run) Yes, I would say that full-assing is the worst.
|Half-assed or full-assed, either one is better than four-assed.|
We both take pause long enough for the fit to pass.
Me: Well, I better get going.
Bob: Yes. (He turns back to his computer) In an attempt to only somewhat-ass my Cal 2 class, I should email this student, especially since he asked a really good question.
Me: That's so rare. You must be proud.
Bob: Kids like this are the only reason I haven't retired.
And it's professors like Bob that are the only reason I felt like I could come back to school.