Maxing out your joy and minimizing the impact of upsets are learned skills. My blog is based on the belief we can learn from the experts, each other, and our own experiences. Circumstances may differ, but they often reflect common basic truths. Happiness is a Habit…we can learn how, practice, and have fun! Post your questions and comments, and I’ll try to show you how to be happy if…
Professor Amy Bishop / RateMyProfessors.com:
How to Be Happy If People Are Rude
First off – rudeness is in the eye of the beholder – yours, mine, and Professor Amy Bishop’s.
Professor Bishop – who walked into her U. of Alabama department meeting and shot the senior professors who refused to give her tenure, would be considered rude (to say the least) by most standards – but not by hers.
As an adjunct professor who didn’t get promoted (just like Prof. Bishop), I have also considered direct action. However, unlike Amy Bishop, I’m a poor shot. I’m also practical. After Amy’s revenge on the people who didn’t promote her, my first thought was, “Well, she won’t get tenure now!”
How true that is – you can’t get tenure (or a man*) with a gun! You can get a moose (and a Republican nomination) – two good reasons Sarah Palin owns one. But since academic ambitions don’t usually call for firearms (except in Amy’s fevered imagination) and there are no moose in Manhattan, I don’t own a gun. (I do own a mini Swiss army knife, which I use for cutting apples. I did this in front of my 8 am English classes – which woke them up – “Whoa! Professor! You got a knife?”)
Anyway, when I didn’t get my own promotion, I went to talk to my Department Chair. I have the usual defects (I’m well past my 20′s so I can’t be counted on for a long life in harness to the needs of the department) – plus some special ones (My Ph.D. is in Theatre, and I’m in the English Department – which means I crossed turfs – a no-no in academia). However, my Department Chair did give me some advice: “Be collegial.”
Collegial? Must have something to do with being non-rude. I think of myself as a friendly, polite person. What could he mean? I asked a friend who had spent many years in the halls of academe.
My friend said: “Collegial means – kissing A**.”
But whose A**? My students? I do spend 90% of my time with them. Does that count?
RatemyProfessors.com is a student run internet site that ranks professors on a scale of 1 to 5 based on set criteria: easiness, clarity, and the reviewer’s interest in the subject matter. Students also award professors chili pepper icons (for hot looks).
I haven’t actually checked my rating on RateMyProfessors.com. Being well acquainted with my own vanity, I would probably count chili peppers. But I think I’m okay because I regularly get Emails from students who are friends of former students and want to be in my classes. I hope this is also because they are learning the subject matter. (Actually, I know they are – and not by my grades alone, which, according to RateMyProfessors.com could be suspect. My 095 remedial classes are entirely made up of students who failed the college writing exam – which I do not grade. By the end of our semester, they retake the exam. Many pass – several with scores that leapfrog the passing grade into higher numbers.)
But enough about me – what about Professor Amy Bishop? Was she rude to her students?
I checked out Amy Bishop on RateMyProfessors.com, and came up with….Zero! Nothing! However, on another search, she seemed to get reasonably favorable ratings. Why the discrepancy? Could this be a cover up?
The news is full of articles about the carelessness – or cover up – that wiped out her history of violence (beginning with shooting her own brother, when she was 19, and continued with her alleged link (with her husband) to a pipe bomb aimed at a Harvard professor who ticked her off, and included a stop at IHOP, where she bitch-slapped a fellow patron for not giving up a booster seat to Amy’s child. (Amy is currently in custody. But police detonated a suspicious PVC pipe found inside the Huntsville home she occupied with husband Jim Anderson, who is still running around free!
Okay – I know I just slid into paranoia-land – where my colleagues are likely to include Amy and hubby Jim-who, I am mindful, is on the loose. But apart from the presence of loose screwballs, there is something to be said for rating one’s professors.
Why is student opinion irrelevant to keeping academic jobs or getting promotions?
Aren’t the students the ones we serve?
Maybe RateMyProfessors.com has some silly standards. But that could be updated and include more educational criteria. Contrary to cynical opinion, most students want to learn – not waste their time.
They also want to be treated with compassion, caring, respect and responsibility – not rudeness. As do we all.
Amy Bishop is at the far end of a spectrum of poor anger management (and probably mentally unbalanced). But she is certainly human.
Her belief that her own needs (like getting tenure and booster seats) completely override the rights of others is at the core of rude behavior.
That driver who cuts you off on the highway – endangering your safety; that person who curses into a cell phone on the elevator -polluting your ears; that date or appointment who stands you up – wasting your time and chipping away at your self-esteem – all little bits of Amy.
And, since this blog is titled, “How To Be Happy If …, how can thinking about the meaning of rudeness help us be happy?
- Don’t take it personally. When someone is rude, it’s usually not about you -and it doesn’t demand confrontation.
- Don’t escalate the argument. It’s usually counter-productive – the most angry, rude person wins (if you can call it winning).
- Do take signs of an explosive temper seriously. Major abuse begins with little tests – if you go along with it, you enable it.
- Do protect yourself and others – speak to authorities, file a report
- If you’re the one with anger issues – get help – before it gets out of hand.
- Do what you love – tenure or not, I love teaching – and for that I am very grateful.
(* “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” is a song by Irving Berlin from the great musical Annie Get Your Gun. Popular songs have taught me a lot – besides, they make me happy.)
“No matter what the music, learn how to dance”
Hugs 2 U Dr. Sue
Dr. Sue Horowitz is a Motivational, Entertaining Speaker, Singer-Songwriter, Professor, Author of “Queens of Comedy” (interviews with Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Joy Behar, etc.), “Read with Me” (Children’s Book of the Month Club), “I Am Loved” (Poetry)
Keys of Love” - positive songs on CD Baby – http://www.cdbaby.com/drsueDr. Susan Horowitz (aka Dr. Sue) is a Motivational Speaker, Media Host, Singer-Songwriter “CD: Dr. Sue “Keys of Love” , Author of “Queens of Comedy” (Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres etc.) “Read with Me” (Children’s Book of the Month Club), “I Am Loved” (Inspirational Poetry) Blog: HOW TO BE HAPPY IF (http://drsue3.wordpress.com)
copyright 2010 Susan “Dr. Sue” Horowitz