I’m Just Glad My Teacher Didn’t Burst Out Laughing

In a previous post I wrote about how I’ve gotten a little braver about answering questions in class, even when I’m not quite sure of the answer.

Well now I might have to go back to my old ways of being a “bump on  log”.

The other day the teacher asked a question, and I answered “a sphere”. It was not the correct answer, and when another student did answer correctly, I realized how wrong my answer was. It was the equivalent of someone answering “green smoothie” to the question, “what’s the capital of Pennsylvania?”

My answer made absolutely no sense, but of course I didn’t realize that until after I heard the correct answer. I’m not sure how the teacher was able to refrain from laughing out loud, or even worse, responding like the teacher in Billy Madison:

The other students didn’t seem too bothered by my answer either; they probably take it for granted that the old guy in the classroom is going to say some crazy things every once in a while.

So like I said, that happened a couple of days ago, and you thought I would have learned my lesson.

Well I did it again today. The teacher put some formula on the board, and he asked what it represented. Again, I wasn’t quite sure, but I thought I’d take a shot, and I answered “trigonometric substitution.” He said no, and called on another student, who correctly answered “a hyperbola”.

Unlike my mistake earlier in the week, I didn’t immediately see why the other student’s answer was correct; in fact, I had no recollection of what a hyperbola even was. Maybe I learned it during high school math, but that was 45 years ago, and I obviously have not been dealing with hyperbolas much as an accounting teacher.

As the teacher teacher sketched out what a hyperbola was, I realized once again that my answer had absolutely nothing to do with the question. I was relieved that the teacher had not asked me a follow-up question when I gave the wrong answer, because it would have just gotten worse.

It would be like an accounting teacher asking “what is the basic accounting equation?” and a student replying “work equals force times speed of light.” Not only the wrong subject matter, but the wrong formula for that as well. If the teacher then followed up with the student by saying, “not quite, but you’re on the right track, it is a formula”, and then the student responding “The Geneva Convention?”

Now my biggest fear is that I’ve turned into Ivan Ackerman, always the wrong answer:

So I think I’m going to cut back on my class participation a bit, and only chime in when I am sure of the answer – which could mean that I won’t say anything the rest of the semester.

And everyone in the room will be smarter as a result.



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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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