Tuesday, February 13, 2007

being respectful and bitterness

today i reached a classroom for one of my lectures a bit late. i looked in and it didn't look like my class. there was a woman with a name tag milling about outside so i asked her if this was my class. she said no, it had moved today because of a conference, hadn't our professor told us? i said no, and asked her where the class had moved. she mentioned the location (a location i had walked by on my way to class). i laughed and said "i guess i'm not going to class today. it's not worth it" and then i walked away.

as i'm walking away, the woman shouts in my direction "what a great student you are. i'm sure you'll make an excellent professor one day."

i look back at this woman like she's insane, but say nothing.

bitter administrators. i've encountered quite a few of them while at graduate school. this woman knows nothing about my class or me, and she has the audacity to loudly offer her sarcastic opinion, when it is not asked for. my comments were in no way antagonistic towards her, in fact i didn't even address her when i said i wasn't going to attend class... in reality, i decided not to go to class because (a) our professor is irresponsible enough not to provide us with this information, giving some indication that he doesn't care too much about our time or class experience (he can easily send email to all registered students). (b) the lectures aren't that great to begin with (mostly regurgitations of the textbook), and i usually find my mind drifting to other topics, so the idea of having to walk yet farther to go to a potentially useless lecture is not very appealing. i could get other things done. she knew none of this, but decided that her comments were worth voicing.

honestly i don't understand all the reasons many of the administrative people i encounter appear bitter and angry, but i do know that i treat them with respect, because they deserve it (as do i, and you, dear reader). maybe this person was having a bad day. but my consistent experience with this group of workers is that they can be quite unhelpful, bordering on mean and bitter in the tone of their responses. i wonder if their job really is so bad that they stop showing students respect?

my dad's college friend once told this funny story about my dad. at college they had one friend who my dad would always respectfully refer to by appending some word to his name. this person didn't think the word was needed, and would not use it himself. anyway, my dad would always do it, and finally this friend started accepting this more respectful reference, and also used the respectful form of reference when talking to my dad. one take away from this story was that you'll get back what you put in -- don't just expect a certain treatment if you're not going to give it in return. the second is that consistent behavior can be contagious -- and if it's the behavior you want to convey, you might derive benefits if you think others should adopt the same behavior (an aside: my dad is a rather mischievous person, so i think that perhaps he was doing this to playfully annoy his friend).

and now the conclusion to the story:

anyway, when i got to my office, i found grant, who also hadn't gone to class. he convinced me that despite our lateness, we should walk over to class. the new location was near my next meeting, so i agreed. we get there and the class hasn't even started, despite it being 20 minutues past the start time. the prof had just arrived! ridiculous, irresponsible, but not surprising.


Grant said...

I am going to email a link to this to the prof :)

Anonymous said...

Oh silly Khan-san

James said...

Or is it Khan-ji?

You really shouldn't let people's comments get to you. Especially people you've never met before and never going to meet again.

minisystem said...

nice story omar - reminds me of my daily experience at u of t. university adminstrators spend their entire lives surrounded by people who are smarter than they are. i guess that ultimately will make you bitter, even if you get paid more than all those smart people.

btw, i'm commenting on your blog from shawn's new MACBOOK!!!!