Explanations of why I love teaching can be abstract, sprinkled with words like “energy” and “engagement” and “chemistry” without conveying the edgy give-and-take that makes a great class like a high-wire act. With most students I have a relationship that combines respect and playful banter. It’s not the only style, it may not be the best style, but it works for me. It suits my personality and emulates the professors I most enjoyed in law school (with Dan Givelber at the top of the list). Which is why I love this story, because the professor it features must be very special to inspire and tolerate such a prank.
Nate, my youngest, is a college junior (not at BU) taking Macro Economics this semester. If a student’s cell phone rings during his Macro class the professor will answer the phone and engage the caller in conversation. Inspired by his professor’s ready classroom humor Nate devised a plan. Explaining the reason for his inquiry he located her husband’s email address from another professor and wrote to him. After explaining how he obtained the husband’s email address through a friend Nate made his pitch:
It being the last week of classes, I was hoping to play a friendly joke back on her. Specifically, I thought it might be hilarious if I could have YOU call my cell phone tomorrow afternoon during class, some time between 3:10 pm and, say, 3:45 pm. In theory, Professor Holmes would hear my phone ring and pick up it up – expecting the caller to be my mother, friend, roommate, etc. She would quickly find out, however, that the person was, in fact, her husband.
Professor Holmes’s husband was game. He called Nate’s phone at the proper time. Hearing its ring the professor picked it up, said “Nate Randall’s phone,” and waited for the caller’s expected confusion. Instead she heard a familiar voice in an entirely-dislocated context. Nate doesn’t know what her husband said, but it cracked her professorial demeanor. She said “Steve?” and her face turned purple as everyone laughed. She terminated the call with “you little shit!” to her husband and returned Nate’s phone with a laughing promise: “This isn’t the end of this!” Nate will be looking over his shoulder until he graduates.
Hats off to you, Professor Holmes.