I love teaching. I really do. There are a few things in life that I believe all of us are born to do, and I think this is one of mine. It makes up for the zillion things I can’t do very well — like math.
That said, it’s not an easy gig some days, and it makes sense to me that a person who can do math well enough to teach it would get sick of misbehavior in his class. I completely understand the college math professor who opted to threaten his students with a fate worse than detention if they didn’t behave. He threatened them with Game of Thrones spoilers instead. He had read all of the books, he said, and if they didn’t behave, he was going to give them one death they may or may not know about from the series, until they straightened up.
“Well. Know that I have read all of the books, and from now on when there will be too much noise, I write the name of the next death in Table I. Enough to hold all year, and I can even describe each death.”
Brutal. Awesome. Worse than eternal winter in the shire, seriously.
But wait, you may be asking: “Do you really have to use these sorts of tactics in college? Aren’t we dealing with adults here, who are paying for their seat and want diplomas and hopefully jobs that turn into careers?”
Yes. Yes, you do. I’m a college counselor and professor, and my classes are first-year seminars, specifically designed to teach study habits, career planning, test-taking skills — basically all of the things that make it possible to succeed in college at all. I sometimes wonder if some of the students in my class aren’t as invested because my class is: A.) not required to graduate, and B.) it’s not reflective of the skills they think they’ll need to get or keep a job. (Trust me: Understanding rules and regulations and knowing how to work in a group? Sometimes way more important than algebra on any given day. Sorry, math teachers.) Sometimes in spite of my best efforts to keep them engaged — and I’m an entertaining person, I swear — the texting, napping, and just plain spacing out can be maddening. I admit, too, that I’m even more concerned if they’re acting up in math, too, especially in college. It’s definitely required, and it’s not easy for a lot of us.
I count it as karma for what a mediocre college freshman I was, and sophomore, and, er, junior. I did not sit in the front of the class, or go every time, or skip General Hospital for geology. (So proud.) So the thing is that I understand the long-term consequences of those kinds of choices, and how most of the time, teachers really do just want students to listen up and do a good job. We’re not in it for the millions of dollars or the summers off (I don’t get those, and nor do many of my higher education colleagues) or the lack of paperwork or the thrill of regulating laptop and iPhone usage.
Yes, you could say a lot of things about having to resort to spoiler-alerting in an educational setting. You could say that it’s ridiculous, that kids are so engrossed in pop culture that that’s more of a deterrent to bad behavior than the fear of failing or maybe getting kicked out of class, or — and yeah, this is a total stretch — not learning anything. But have you looked at the Game of Thrones hashtag on Twitter or Pinterest lately? Even Instagram? It is not just a misbehaving student or 30 who would be traumatized by having their GoT experience disrupted in any way, especially as April heralds the arrival of the 4th season. People are bananas for this show. You may be one of the very grown-up people who has emotional reactions to it. You may even stop talking in a classroom if someone threatened to reveal things about it that you didn’t know, because I’ve seen the bickering on Twitter when it’s threatened. It’s a little scary. (Although not as scary as the Red Wedding. I’d have liked a warning about that.)
I’m frankly just jealous that I didn’t think of this first. I’m actually considering lifting this idea the next time I run into a classroom behavior management jam. This means an innocent “What’s your favorite TV show?” poll of my current group to see if Game of Thrones spoilers will work, or if I need to pick another show. These are the things that can occupy valuable lesson-planning time.
As for what the students think? Seems like this math teacher got them where they lived, which is at least partially in Westeros and Essos, at least in their minds. The text of the original post is in French, but the student clearly knows he’s dealing with a pro. “Mon prof de maths est un génie” translates to “My math professor is a genius.”
Image credit: Instagram, @amyvernon