Seven Uncool Ways to Be the “Cool” Professor
1) Refer casually to controlled substances. Last week I saw a professor in the sciences crack jokes with students about the chemical composition of cocaine. I’ve also seen professors talk about “brand-less cigarettes” when in a pinch. Dude, you got like three degrees. There’s no way you couldn’t have done that much smack.
2) Ask students to call you by your first name. We’re all equals here. There is no hierarchy. Except there is. A big difference is that one of us sitting in the circle of harmony will be voting the rest of us on or off the island.
3) Swear in class. This feels exhibitionist. Like you’ve figured out the only way in class to interest the guy with the backwards cap is to use three F bombs and a couple “well, shits!” when talking about the poetry of Emily Dickinson.
4) Talk about your band. The low-point of my education was when an English professor scratched the name of his cover band onto the chalkboard with the addendum, “9 p.m., Friday night, _____ Bar.” As if watching your dopy khaki-d ass three days a week for 50 minutes wasn’t enough pain, now your solipsistic self wants them to see you take a 15 minute solo on Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing”?
5) Take your class outside when the weather is nice. I see a professor headed for doorway with a group of students in tow, I think one thing: this will end in someone getting stung by a wasp or a sexual harassment subpoena.
6) Everything is phallic and/or referencing your exes. “Teacher” is your public persona. “Guy whose last three girlfriends committed suicide, left you, and had you arrested,” respectively, is your private persona. Let’s keep the door shut on that last one.
7) Try to get “comfortable” with your students during one-on-one conferences. I like keeping individual meetings with students socially awkward and uncomfortable in a bright white room of despair. This is for two reasons. (a) I’ve consumed too much Rock Star Energy Drink and can’t pick up on social cues/developed a nervous twitch. (b) It helps students recognize that for all the rumors and fun day-dreams about what it’d be like to “hang” with Professor Cool Guy who listens to M83 and references Breaking Bad in class, he is in fact an emotionally shallow nincompoop who landed in the community college out on the prairie for justifiable reasons. If you wanted Ethan Hawke teaching your math class, you should’ve gone to school in the Ivy League.
– Dunstan McGill will let his student evaluation sheets sit on his futon at home for weeks before opening them.
Photo courtesy Chaz Wags