I am not writing to complain necessarily. I am writing because I want people to see that professors make their students into a confusing emotional mess. Their very actions make it hard for them to learn and pay attention or care about the work that they are doing. At the every least, their actions make them spend time and energy worrying about things that don't have anything to do with the subject they are supposed to be learning. If you think that you don't do this, you probably do. It is very likely that your actions detract your own students from learning. From my own experience, the very way most of my teachers and professors have treated me made it difficult for me to comprehend the material they were given. It is no that the material was difficult to understand. The way that they treated me made me apathetic about the subject matter and them altogether. Please allow me to show you how they have done this to me.
All my life I have come into contact with well meaning professors and teachers who claim to uphold thinking and introspection. I know this because they told me so, they have written about the need for it, or they act in a way that would suggest that they are trying to do uphold critical thinking. Funny thing is that their assumptions about me have ensured the opposite. They assume I don't know things so they will lecture me about something. I, then, am forced to nod and agree as they go on and on about something I understand already. I can't be offensive. I have to be respectful. These people have authority over me. They are my future reference letters. They are my ticket out of graduate school and my ticket into the job market. They are my ticket to learning as the practice of freedom. So I have to handle their feelings delicately.
They assume that I have certain opinions. This assumption usually brings about more lectures where people talk at me instead of talking to me. If they do allow me to speak it is clear that they want me to understand something in particular. All of this really equates to a series of gotcha questions and them cutting me off when I speak the moment I give them the gotcha answer they were looking fore. I have time and time again interacted with professors who won't engage with me. So this isn't a UConn phenomena. I've had this problem my whole life. But now, it is really affecting me because my goals are dependent on learning from and interacting with these people. Many of the teachers and professors that I've had are resistant about meeting me where I am. They simply disseminate information into me and then pat themselves on the back for helping me learn and grow.
When you do this to me (and even to other students) it takes up time. It takes up my time. It makes me feel like shit. It puts me in this state of confusion because I don't know how to politely tell you that you are talking to me in a way that is belittling or that your assumptions about me make me feel like you think that I am stupid or one of those millennials. The sort of millennial that can't be open minded about ideas or criticism. I don't know how to politely tell you that your teaching practices need work. I don't know how to tell you that I am here to learn and grow and that your assumptions about me are so low that you are making me do things that call for the exact opposite. You don't engage with the things that I say and you break things down to me like I don't have the faculties or reasoning skills to say something insightful or at the very least comprehend the main idea of your lectures or your readings, I don't know how I can maintain my enthusiasm for your class, for the subject you are teaching, or for interacting with you when you do this. I also don't believe in suffering in silence so I am at a lost as to what I am supposed to do.
I want to say that this is a universal phenomena because it can't just be happening to me. Right? I can imagine this happening to many other students. I have spoken to a few students about this and they have told me that they have experienced something similar. Whether or not this is a universal phenomenon is important because if it is then I can make some sort of generalization about the state of academia and the people in it or I can make some statement about the men in my life or the men in our society (only men did this to me). But also, maybe I can make a statement about racism in America. I am a black woman so I wonder if my race and gender is the reason why you are talking to me this way? Is that why you are assuming the things that I am saying. The question is important because if that is the case then there is nothing I can do to make you treat me differently. I also wonder if it is my age. Maybe professors just have a thing against millennial's? But if it is the case that I am somehow saying something that makes you have certain assumptions about me, I would like to try and work on speaking differently. But then again, why do I have to change my whole way of being, my whole way of talking just so that you can treat me like a person and listen to me, engage with what I am saying, and meet me where I am instead of talking at me from a standpoint of where you think I am.
I don't know what to do. How do I fuck with people who assume that I am dumb? Normally, I would not ask the question but I am forced to fuck with these people so what do I do? The situation gets even scarier because I don't know the best teaching practices. I don't know what professors can do to come off differently. I fear that I may be doing the same with my own students. The world is confusing. Life is confusing. I wish someone would give me some answers.