Evan Benton, Staff Writer

When I first came to George Mason University at the tail end of the glorious, eye-awakening summer of 2006, I braced myself for what, at the time, seemed like the only part of college I should prepare for: the classes.

I was told by a plethora of former students and high school teachers prior to my college career that, “In college, I will be just a number in a sea of faces; a student with no identity, whose only method of communicating with his professors is via e-mail, as they don’t take questions during class.”

This is a rough paraphrase of what I was told, but every one of those sentiments was expressed in some way to me.

I found out quickly that this was not the case and, except in classes that are laughably nonessential for majors like mine (EVPP 110, SOC 101, IT 103), I have been exposed to many classes of the most intimate and friendly variety.

College professors, like the aforementioned classes they taught, I figured, would be different from the many high school teachers I had over the years: men and women with higher salaries, many of them published authors. These were people that were so professional that the trials and tribulations of one student’s life was never their problem.

Once again I found myself refreshingly misinformed, and I can honestly say that I still stay in contact with some of my past professors, whose advice and guidance will always be appreciated.

But, as my grandmother is fond of saying – although sometimes I’m not sure what she’s implying when she says it directly to me – there are always some rotten apples in the basket.

In middle school (Peter Muhlenberg Middle School in rural Woodstock, Va.), I had a teacher named Mrs. Clarke who refused to teach our science textbook’s evolution rhetoric because it was “simply wrong.”
When we were supposed to be learning about Darwin and how some exotic hummingbirds’ beaks are shaped perfectly to fit a rare flower and just that flower, she scoffed and mocked her way through it, and we were told to “think for ourselves,” apparently as long as the thinking was done with a Bible in hand. Aside from bored, postpartum depressed teachers in high school, this was my worst experience up to college.

At Mason, I’ve had my share.

Creative writing teachers that tell you how your prose should have been written by citing examples from their own published work.

Math professors that ask why you don’t understand when the entire class does, rolling their eyes so often when you raise your hand in class that you just stop entirely.

A conflict resolution professor that wrongfully accuses the class of laughing at her disability, a communication professor who yells at the class because they don’t appreciate his correspondent work from the Eighties.

These are firsthand events I have experienced and, initially, I met them with anger or wrote them off as pathetic. A person in a professor’s position can’t afford to compromise their professionalism like that, I thought.

But in hindsight, and with almost my whole college career in the rear-view mirror, I assess now that they are only human, individuals with the same problems as us, sometimes much greater ones – and at times, they get defensive and embarrassed, or want to bring up their glory days because, well, they miss them.

We students aren’t easy to get along with, I realize this. And we sometimes don’t give those that should be respected their due.

Except you, my math teacher from sophomore year who was so demeaning and abrasive that I selectively withdrew from your class. Hopefully, now two years later, you’re struggling with a new job, divorced and soaked in liquor.