February 06, 2004
A legend in his own mind

Mark Gammon, who just got a tenure-track position as a religion professor at a college in Iowa, has decided he now needs to work on developing his "mythos -- by which I mean the collection of legends, personality traits, and nicknames passed from student to student through the years." He's already gotten something of a rep for calling Jesus a "bad-ass demon killer," but now he's thinking bigger:

First, the office. To now, it has been the office of a transient visiting instructor -- empty cardboard boxes, blank walls, unorganized piles of crap, and a conspicuous lack of necessary office supplies. I have certain elements of the hip, young whimsical professor (Buddy Christ, Grover pencil cup, religion-oriented cartoons on the door), and at least two elements of the "bachelor don" persona -- Victorianesque love seat and complete set of Barth's Church Dogmatics. So, the question is what direction to go. I'm leaning toward a third-way -- displaced overeducated Southerner, something like Faulkner on a bender. The furniture in there is conspicuously bland, so it is going to have to be done with smoke and mirrors until time allows the purchase of suitable bookcases and a real desk. The other option is the absent-minded slob look, but the philosophy professor down the hall seems to have that one going (along with the grandpa glasses and the always messed-up collar).

The suggestions he's getting are hilarious: Jennifer offers a WTFWJD mug, another commenter recommends having a superhero costume hanging up (but not worn), while a third suggests "a few jars of animal parts in formaldahyde to scatter around the bookshelves. Extra points for back-lighting them."

Jennifer reminisced about one of her own more mythological teachers, a glamorous redhead with short skirts, a mysterious accent, an absent husband and a penchant for sherry.

The only teacher I remember having who was quite that colorful was my high-school chemistry teacher. He had the mad-scientist look going -- shaggy white hair, thick glasses, old sneakers. He had a boom box he used for playing the Grateful Dead during lab assignments. His car was an old yellow Honda with a bumper sticker saying, "Chemistry teachers have better reactions." He also had a fetish for flies; the back door of the classroom was completely decorated with, er, fly art.

Not surprisingly perhaps, he began the first day of class with, "You're going to have to ignore some rumors you've heard about me."

Posted by Camassia at February 06, 2004 02:41 PM | TrackBack

Senior year high school English teacher and senior essay advisor (yes, my HS did senior essays). A trip and a half. Ex-Marxist, now (=1996) Tory, misspent his youth handing out Commie propaganda on the docks of Belfast, now praises Margaret Thatcher to the skies. Slightly disheveled but obviously worked out (buff upper half). Comes in looking VERY hungover and explains that he has been "out rioting." Completely absorbed in whatever he's talking about in class, to the point that he would, e.g., sharpen a pencil down to the eraser, or sloooooooowly push a pile of books all the way to the edge of his desk (this would take at least five minutes, ALL of us watching in suspense, completely ignoring the lecture as we wait to see whether he will let the books tip over the side--sadly, he never did), or stare at a Glue Stick a la Hamlet and Yorick, tapping his fingers against its tacky surface in total mesmerized intensity. ...While I was working on my senior essay, he left me a note on the school's bulletin board (where the office would leave notes saying your mom called, etc.), which read only: "'The noble disaffected'?" (This was relevant.)... We also managed to fool him into thinking an ambulance was the bell to signal the end of class. Twice.

I've gotta call that guy.

Posted by: Eve Tushnet on February 7, 2004 04:02 PM
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