Send in the clown

2000 meets 2014, and the student becomes teacher.

2000 meets 2014, and the student becomes teacher.

I’m staring out at a jury of 20-year-old faces. These guys are armed with hoodies, yawns and misbehaving, multicolored Macs.

My voice has wavered. The gathering can sense my desperation. I stumble over words and cringe at computer errors. My Hail Mary at humor is met with silence. I’ll gulp my water, bang on my laptop as if it’s a shield. Is anyone awake out there? The clock doesn’t seem to budge.

Exactly a decade after graduating from college, this is how I am spending my Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Most would simply pull out a photo album or visit with old roommates to commiserate about classes, house parties and old flames. By chance, I became a (temporary) professor.

“Dead Poets Society,” this is not. This professor isn’t a PhD; she’s a denizen of newspaper night work. They simply call her Katie. Or, in most cases, nothing at all.

COM 323 – Newspaper Editing and Design – is held in the same Bradley University classroom that convinced me to become a copy editor. The banks of hulking, sweating Power Mac G4s are long gone. Same goes for those pesky Zip disks and the days of hard-wired Internet.

It’s now been made clear: The last 120 months walled away behind a desk have left me ill prepared for teaching. My head was filled more with AP Style rules than ease in front of a crowd. Put mildly, copy editors are a strange bunch. We often don’t play well with others; coffee flows as freely as criticism. Negativity is in abundant supply, and it might be the lack of sunlight. Profanity doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

But change? That’s when we lose our bluster. (Expletive).

Smile! Tell a joke! Something about Comic Sans! You’re losing them even further.


I’ve contemplated showing a movie. “Page One,” perhaps?

Have you kids seen “All The President’s Men?” Yes, Robert Redford used to be young.

What about “The Paper”? I don’t care that it’s dated, I still have a working VCR somewhere.

“Network” is my last try. Broadcast is still journalism, right?

“Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamned amusement park!”

And as I’m finding, so is teaching.



3 thoughts on “Send in the clown

  1. Dennis Anderson says:

    I guess you can go home again, just everything appears smaller. Well written essay. Please share more.

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