All Posts, Culture

What are YOU really thinking?

I enjoy reading the ‘What I’m really thinking’ feature on the Guardian website.

For all the times that I’ve turned up to a lecture or seminar half asleep, I was never really thinking about this –

What I’m really thinking: the university lecturer

‘Your indifference bears no relation to my hours of preparation’

I look at the 23 of you in the room – a small group this year – and wonder if you’re even aware of me as I teach. Might it be that because you’re not talking to me, one-on-one, you forget to filter the expressions on your faces? Or is it that you imagine, in a crowd, you are somehow invisible?

So oblivious are some of you to my scrutiny that you all suspend your polite, public faces. Your expressions and bodies reveal far more than you know – self-preening, lip-curled sneering, eye-rolling, yawning, you can barely stay awake sometimes.

Your indifference bears no relation to my hours of preparation. The university asks you to comment, anonymously, on the quality of my teaching. I would like the chance to comment on the quality of your listening. When you are really disengaged and disconnected, I see hands reach for phones in bags. You connect but it’s usually to someone outside this room. Sometimes you even pass notes, giggle and whisper.

Yet I also see you when you laugh at my jokes. When you are concentrating hard, I can almost hear your minds turning over; you can be so engaged. Some of you take notes so intensively, fighting to keep up with my words, as if it’s life or death if you miss something. I see your faces light up when you want to say something, the eagerness to comment, to take part. You are relaxed, smiling, enjoying the moment of understanding, humour or realisation. We connect. Now I see you and you see me.

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