Saturday 5 October 2019

Patriarchal foot in mouth

Gawd, he's done it again. It will be a close run thing as to whether I'll be retiring from The Institute next Summer with modest plaudits and accolades OR having my epaulettes ripped off and my USB key broken across the knee of the president of a conduct unbecoming tribunal.

A couple of years ago, after a long day on my feet teaching, I was sitting at a desk in my last class of the day. The students dribbled in from their previous class - their contact hours are on average nearly twice mine. One young woman looked particularly worn out and, in any excess of empathy, I blurted out "Blimey, you looked shagged",  Ooops! Big Red Face: all of my native English speakers will realise that 'shagged' is slang for both "tired" and "bonked".  By context and timing [4PM on a workday afternoon] the former meaning is much more likely but people in my profession have to be above suspicion in their intercourse dialogue with students.

Last Monday [at 4PM! that must be my weirding stupid hour] I had my second remedial math class with this year's intake for our Brewing & Distilling degree. I make it a point of honour to know the names of all my students by the end of the first tuthree weeks of teaching. To facilitate this I strip student ID photos from our server and print them out with names and courses on a single sheet of paper for each class. Sharing this with my colleagues wins many friends. B&D, unsurprisingly, is a really blokey degree; top heavy with mature students with years of experiience making home-brew and making poitin in their several garages. This year we have only one woman in the class. To call the roll, I went round the class as they completed whatever the assignment required, sometimes with confidence and sometimes more tentatively "You're Aaron . . . the other Ahron . . . ?Adam? . . . Alan . . .Aisling, you're easy . . . " STOP right there. No matter the excuse that putting the correct name on the only female in the room is the least hard task for matching faces to names. No teacher can suggest that one of the students is "available".

And because things always go in threes, I had another literal/slang potential miscommunication recently. I was talking to a couple of students who were havering about whether they would do a final-year research project co-supervised by me and someone in The Oak Park campus of Teagasc on the other side of town. That place is 4.5km away = 9 minutes by car but maybe an hour on foot, so I asked the student if she had a car. Ah don't worry about that I'll take a taxi, it's only €8 within the city limits. I've ceased to be amazed at Generations Y & Z who grew up after the Celtic Tiger and think of money as something to be spent. €8 is about what I earned for my first wage packet for a 40 hour week riddling potatoes. I replied "whatever about taxis, it would be a good idea to have a departmental bike" I was going to finish that sentence ". . . so that people can nip across to the other place for a meeting". But the phrase departmental bike seemed to be causing a mild emotional turmoil on the other side of the table. One interpretation, in a wholly different context, could be departmental bike = the available woman. A bike being something you ride which is yet another synonym for bonking. You can't be too careful, I guess. Then again you can't stop talking altogether.

This looks much worse (why is this old buffer continually making inappropriate remarks to young women) than it might be because it's a condensate from about three years of hundreds of interactions that are not actionable. Then again, I would say that wouldn't I? If I had a therapist, I'd ask her if I had a problem.

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