Well, I blew it. And I’m happy to have gotten that out of the way.
I totally failed to set the example today, and I did it at the one moment in class where I’m most expected to be all formal and leaderly and professional.
One of my FYC sections today was listless and confused and needed prompting and guidance on just about every single task, so by the time I taught the next section, I was more than a little impatient, punchy, and flippant. One section’s leaving when the next section starts coming in, and I’m immediately inundated with the same questions about how to turn in their work that the last section had asked, after I’d both (1) put the homework assignment up on the course site and (2) gone over it at the end of the previous class. And since they’re cadets and getting inspected all the time and jacked up for the tiniest mistake or inconsistency, they’re super-focused on detail.
So they’re like, “Sir, which folder do we put the work in to turn it in? Sir, do you want our names on the folders? Sir, should we put our names on a computer-printed name tape or just hand-write them? Sir, is pencil OK, or can we write our names in pen? Sir, where on the folder do you want us to write our names? Is it OK to write our names on the inside, sir?” And of course some of it was a pile-on, in that sort of gleeful way they have of seeing just how much they can mess with the system while not technically doing anything that would get them in trouble.
Like for example: when they’re outside, cadets are required to salute every officer they pass; officers are required to return the salute. (Yet another reason I’m glad I’m civilian faculty.) When officers pass cadets in a group or in a formation, the group or formation salutes as a whole, and the officer is only required to return the single en masse salute. Can you guess what habit cadets have developed? O yes. If there’s sufficient space, whenever cadets traveling one way in a group spot an approaching officer, they immediately disperse while maintaining their direction of travel — so the officer is required to return many salutes instead of one.
I love it, and I totally and wholeheartedly approve. Except, y’know, when I’m the victim, as with the pile-on I described. I started out by trying to be the easygoing candy civilian instructor — “No, just write your name anywhere, pen or pencil is fine” — answering all the questions, and then a couple of the jokers decided to tweak things a bit more: “Sir, cursive or print?” And I couldn’t not be the smartass in response, and failing to take into account the fact that they’d just had two months of military training, I sarcastically replied, “Morse code, Cadet.”
And I’m sure you know what the mock-dutiful response was, with stifled smirks all around.
“Roger that, sir.” And they started to do it.
And seeing those stifled smirks was all it took for me to realize I was about to receive a section’s worth of portfolios with names rendered in dots and dashes, so I tried to one-up: “Cancel that, Cadet. I want your names in Braille.”
Totally straight face: “Should we erase the morse code, sir?”
The 14:54:59 on the clock turned to 14:55:00, saving me from having to reply, though not from what followed. The section marcher — one of the instigators — called the classroom to attention and saluted and delivered his report. I returned his salute, doing my best not to smile. But he saw me holding it back and started grinning himself, and that was all it took for me to snort and break up laughing in mid-salute.
Yeah, I’ll be the first to confess: I am most definitely not officer material. But I was pretty pleased with myself when the class finished and one of the cadets said over his shoulder as he left: “Good class, sir.”