Monday, February 03, 2014

The Perils of Professing

Oh, the things we teachers sometimes say. Without intent. I was talking about evolutionary concepts in my comparative psychology class the other day and was discussing a type of finch found on the Galapagos Islands called a Vampire Finch. This finch obtains some of its food by pecking at the feet of other, larger birds, and then drinking the blood that runs from the wound. Its favorite prey is a species of bird called a “Blue Footed Booby,” which is much larger with big, somewhat fleshy feet. I’m going along in my discussion when I announce to the class:  “So here we have a creature that makes its living sucking blood from boobies.”

It did not occur to me that what I’d said could be taken another way until I heard a couple of snickers from students in the class. Quite often when I make such a “slip,” I will call attention to it so we can all get a good laugh. We are still very early in the semester, though, with mostly sophomore level students, and this was just creepy enough that I decided to rush on to another topic. I’m quite sure there were some repetitions later outside of class. I also got quite a laugh out of it myself after I got back to the office.

Oh, the imprecision of language!


Tom Doolan said...

I would have been the one snickering. Because I'm giggling now. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yeah, I'm chuckling now!

Adventuresfantastic said...


There was the time in one of my classes where we were working with an equation that involved time (t) and acceleration (a). A young lady, in response to a question from me to the entire class about how to solve the problem, said something about having both T and A. She didn't understand why the mostly male class erupted in laughter.

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom, some well deserved giggling on that one.

Alex, thumbs up.

Keith, lol indeed.

Oscar Case said...

That's a funny one, Charles.

pattinase (abbott) said...

In a somewhat similar vein, my husband teaching political science has to be very careful not to slant anything he says. At the end of his course, usually about half of the students think he's a Democrat and half a Republican and that's what he is going for.

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, Yeah, my faculty friends have gotten big laughs as well.

Patti, I can imagine so. I have to be careful in my evolution class in dealing with the god issue, which sometimes comes up.

Angie said...

LOL! Yeah, not much you can do with that except move on. :)


Cloudia said...

Like the panda who:
Eats, shoots, and leaves - er,
that eats shoots & leaves of the bamboo!

ALOHA from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

=^..^= <3

Cloudia said...

oh I forgot to:


BernardL said...

That's the kind of slip nowadays where everyone can enjoy a laugh, or have you put in handcuffs. :)

Ty said...

Best professor I ever had told jokes in class, and all of them were based upon true history. I still get a chuckle thinking about sacrifices to holy chickens in Republican Rome.

G. B. Miller said...

Oh I can go sooooooooooo many ways with that sentence. 'Course if I did, I probably would get my hand slapped with a ruler by the good professor.

ivan said...

Brings to mind my own gaffes as a teacher.
I was teaching creative writing, where the prof is supposed to be a little eccentric in the first place.
I mentioned in class that in New Guinea, the men seemed rather well endowed.
Then in segue, I blurted, "Ladies, ladies, the boat for Port Moresby doesn't leave till the weekend."


Brian Miller said...

oh i feel you man...teaching high school everything is taken out of context...and i have said some doozies without even thinking...i def would have been one laughing (with you) when you said that...oh my...and i bet that led to all new psychology

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, and quickly!

Cloudia, yeah, word placement is key.

Bernard, if I'd said it to a single student it could have been worse. AT least to a class it's not quite the same.

Ty, there are some pretty good tales from psychological history that I use.

G. B. I don't even want to imagine.

Ivan, egads, I thought mine was bad. :)

Brian, it's certainly not the first time I've laid such an egg.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, a genuine slip. I can imagine students snickering at that though it'd have been so much nicer if the class had laughed out loud.

Richard Prosch said...

Makes me think of those old records you could get in the '60s and '70s of old time radio bloopers.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, I'm surprised some didn't laugh out loud. probably only because they are getting to know me still.

Richard, yeah, it would be rather cool to have a blooper real for teachers.

jodi said...

Charles-I can just imagine you realizing your error and then plunging on thru it! Funny!

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, yes, there would have been a time when I was very embarrassed but those days are over.

Erik Donald France said...

Chuckles, indeed. On Eight Mile in Detroit, there's a place called something like "The Booby Trap." It's not an aviary.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, yes, I would suppose so. :)