I cultivate a deadpan face at all times because I maintain that showing emotion makes one open to abuse. Unfortunately, my deadpan skills cause some confusion when dealing with people who are less dead inside out than me. It’s especially difficult to get my humour across with my straight face—though my sense of humour, which is often somewhat less digestible, might be to blame.
My students are incredibly credulous. Something in their education is apparently amiss since they take everything at face value. The other day when I distributed their final tests, I advised them to write their name on the paper and their student number. I added that should they fail to include their student number, I would award penalty points. There was deathly silence in response. I had to explain the joke, which made it somewhat less charming.
During oral exams, I made a point of looking encouraging, though anything that was still alive inside me was being slaughtered at the moment by the assault of incredibly bad English I was forced to sit through. This considerate approach turned out to be poorly thought through, in keeping with the law that each good deed shall be punished accordingly.
Several days after the oral exam, I received an email from a student who wanted me to explain why she got such a poor grade when I “looked content”. I doubt that I ever look content, but I can’t say, and I certainly have no recollection of this particular student—I examined about forty candidates within two days, plus I’m consciously working on suppressing this traumatic experience. I wrote a polite response suggesting that next time the student might want to raise questions on the spot.
On a more cheerful note, I learned a lot of interesting details about the students during the oral exam. One student intimated that he was looking forward to feeling the virginity of the forest in Romania, where he was going for holiday. I didn’t pry for details. Another student explained that while he thought domestic animals were sometimes abused, he couldn’t envision a cow living on its own and enjoying its freedom somewhere in the woods. I couldn’t envision it either. I managed to keep a serious face, though with utmost effort.