I am in a nursing program at a community college in a small rural town. This is the first semester for those in my class, and so far the experience has been wonderful; my classmates on the whole are respectful and helpful, and I feel like this is a great group of people to go to clinicals with in the fall. There is, of course, one exception, and though she has been mildly rude in the past, nothing prepared me for the events in class this week.
This is a nutrition class, with a teacher who is particularly enthusiastic. She has never previously wavered from the subject, and she provides only concrete, helpful anecdotes to demonstrate real-world application of the material. On this particular day, however, she had just gotten home from what must have been a life-changing journey. Her daughter is in the armed services, and she spent two weeks visiting on the naval craft where the daughter is stationed, sailing around the Pacific Ocean and seeing how the personnel live out there. She was filled with enthusiasm, and what started out as telling us about the diet of the thousands of people on board the vessel quickly became story-telling time. The class as a whole was fascinated, there were many questions, and she was more than willing to answer them.
About fifteen minutes into the class, a particular young woman raised her hand and was called upon, and promptly said with a great amount of biting sarcasm, “Can you go ahead and take attendance, and then talk about your personal life for ten or fifteen more minutes? Because this has nothing to do with my education.”
Shock reverberated through the classroom, but the teacher gracefully apologized, went to the podium, and took attendance. She picked up her lecture notes, and started talking about the subject of the day. By this time, the young woman in question had collected her things and left. Another person raised her hand and apologized for the rudeness of the departed student, and the classroom was filled with murmurs of agreement. Our teacher only smiled and shrugged, and said, “If that’s the worst thing that happens in my life, it’s a pretty good life!” Someone else asked another question about her trip, and she spoke a little more about the experience before settling into lecture.
Despite the rudeness, I feel for the young woman. It’s a small class, and none of us are going to forget. She was right on some level to expect that class time would be about the material, but oh so wrong in her expression. My first thought after was that I would NOT want to be paired up with her for clinicals, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one. I quieted myself by remembering that no one is perfect, and I don’t want to be a person who holds that imperfection against someone. If I am working with her, I hope to have as much grace as our teacher did as the recipient of the rudeness. 0330-11
The manner in which the young student expressed herself was truly rude and disrespectful. However, I do believe it would have been fine for her or any other student to have said something to gently prod the instructor to get back on course with teaching the material for the day. The operative word in that sentence is “gently”. A classroom is like a board room with the students being the subordinates and the teacher being the CEO who determines how his/her “business” should be run. Good CEOs allow input from their subordinates whose suggestions are meant to benefit the good of the entire company, not just oneself. So, the appropriate comment would have been, “I know I and others have been enjoying this fascinating topic of discussion. Is there a time later after class or a lunch period that we could meet to hear more about your very interesting travels? I would be interested to do that if you are.” This sends the teacher the subtle message that it is time to move on to teaching and allows her a graceful exit to save face while clearly communicating a respect for her, others and their interest in her travel tales. And the classmates would be silently admiring the gracious student as someone they would definitely want to work with both in class and later in a professional capacity.
And as an addendum, this story is a good example of why some people are never successful in life. They wonder why business networking does not work for them, why they get passed over for promotions, why they seem stuck at a certain pay grade, why the best job assignments go to others, why they are stricken from guest lists for social events, etc. Actions can have consequences not just for one’s social life but overall success in a career and business.