I had an excellent English professor for two classes in my last year of college (referenced once here at The New Leaf Journal). He was old school – likely in his 70s and having taught at Brooklyn College for many years. He was an Orthodox Jew, old school Brooklyn, and had the accent one would expect given that description. I appreciated his lecturing because he was concerned first and last with the author’s meaning. I explained what I mean in a previous article:
My professor explained that in each great work of literature, the author tells the reader how he or she thinks people should live. In each work we studied, we worked to ascertain the author’s meaning, nothing more. My professor expressly explained that his job was to teach what the author of a given work meant. He added that if we came to understand from his teaching what he thought about what the author meant, that would mean that he was a bad professor.
The professor was very quotable in addition to his teaching. While he hewed to the text while examining literature, he occasionally segued into parenting and decorum. He would also make observations in class. There was an older student – I would guess in his 30s – in one of the two classes I took with the professor. I recall he always wore jeans, a white t-shirt, and a bandanna. (I assumed at the time he used a motorcycle, but that was unconfirmed.) Before class started one day, the professor began the following exchange with the student.
Professor: You were in the military, right?
Student: Yes Sir.
Professor: Do you know how I figured it out?
Student: No sir.
Professor: You always call me Sir.
Sure enough, you can sometimes tell when someone is former military without being told, whether from his or her manner of speech, dress, or jogging form.
(The professor also responded less-than-favorably to students beginning questions with “don’t” or “doesn’t it,” which inspired a similar revulsion in one half of our fictional dialogue duo.)