“John Robinson may be the only person I know who is capable of making a whole room of people terrified of him without saying a word.”
That is going on my tombstone. Wait, maybe this will:
“He talks with an old-fashioned accent that makes him sound wiser than he probably is.”
Those are two of my students talking about me. Or writing, as it were.
As part of a lesson on writing description, I had them describe me in no more than three paragraphs. It may not have been the smartest assignment. They were aware that I was their teacher, even though the exercise wasn’t graded and I encouraged them to write whatever without repercussions. To tell the truth, it was more risky for my ego. But I had tried having other classes describe scenes of nature, and of random people and in coffee shops, and they were all boring. So I tried this.
Many of them wrote about my height — “legs longer than most people’s bodies” — and voice — either “calm and reassuring” or “unanimated.” One compared me to a Venus flytrap waiting for an insect. Apparently I need to smile more and be more animated in my movements. Several referred to my usual uniform of a dress shirt and slacks — hey, it’s a sign of respect to the students and craft!
The best descriptions were from the students who not only mentioned the physical, but also used what they had observed throughout the semester — my actions, my words and my thoughts. And most of them nailed the assignment and described me pretty accurately. There were funny lines, though.
“John Robinson speaks like a character from an old Southern movie — warm, drawn-out and a bit twangy. The voice is comforting even when he’s ripping apart your writing in his office.”
And this one, which was prescient:
“He says that this won’t be graded and there are no expectations, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be judgment. The first day of class he said he both loves people and he also hates them. There will be judgment. He does care about them, a lot, but more than he would let on for you to believe. I guarantee as I walk out of the room I will get another sly smile, begging the question, “So, how do you think you did?”
Some are precise:
“Robinson is the kind of professor who tricks students on the first day of class. He talks a lot about harsh grading, challenging work — all spoken with a no-BS attitude that makes a 20-year-old think, “This guy’s a hard ass.”
“But the facade comes down pretty quickly after that.”
And while I don’t know what some of the words mean, I’m taking it as a compliment:
“He interlocks his tatty fingers while he speaks. He routinely puts his hand in his pocket to jingle the coins as he wait for students to answer his questions. He has a smear grin that is warm to see from an aged man.”