Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Being Misunderstood

When I was younger - so much younger than today - I hated being misunderstood. Teaching has cured me of that. One of my life's happy discoveries has been how deeply rooted into the fabric of things is the likelihood of people not simply not quite understanding my words or actions but taking them to mean the complete opposite of what I intended.

My favourite example comes from around ten years ago when I told a class, several classes in fact, that the only really good question is one that can't be answered. I'm not quite sure what I meant, but it sounded good. Quite by accident I discovered that one very bright student incorporated this apercu into a speech, telling the world that Mr Connor had told everyone that the only really good question is one that has an answer. I wasn't really all that miffed as I quite liked the sound of that - and began to offer it occasionally in lessons, immediately following a lesson in which my original comment had been let loose for contemplation.

Marking essays, of course, provides a wonderful window onto the capacity of the mind to distort any in-coming data in weird and woeful ways. Except once you come to accept this the woe sort of evaporates to be replaced by a wary respect for the wrongheadedness central to our species. If nothing else it's highly entertaining once you get beyond the anguish of failing to connect. And there's something endearing about people only hearing what they want to hear.


Trebuchet said...

Wait wait that's Liverpudlian music that is in the first line, not Mancunian at all... :)

In the year just past, I count a total of about 50 TOK essays which have gone through my review inbox. I though I had managed quite well without quite marking them, but hopefully leaving my mark on the students who wrote them. Then I realised that they had marked me; I had these odd spasms of 'maybe it is I who can't think straight'. Shudder.

Brian Connor said...

That's eerily reminiscent of my own travails in dealing with the twenty or so that pass through my hands, and leave their mental marks, annually.

Double shudder. Except this year I have no TOK classes as the English Dept need to monopolise me.

And the irony is, of course, how much I'll miss TOK.