It’s never a good feeling when something a teacher does or says irks you and it keeps buzzing around in your brain. (Yes, I do tend to dwell on things just a bit.)

It is never a good thing when a teacher answers a student’s questions with a careless attitude, or makes the student think the question is not relevant.  The student has a reason for asking that question.  Do not treat the student as if they are insane for asking something that you have not considered before.


So here is a little bit of background information you might want for the situation:

1)      The professor has a doctorate in world literature.

2)      The professor has taught many different genres and eras of literature in several different countries.

3)      Our class is reading 19th Century British Literature and applying knowledge of the Victorian culture and the advancements of the time period to the literature.

4)      For this particular class period, we read Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1887).

5)      The class period was supposed to be broken up into an hour presentation on Darwinism and the effect that the Theory of Evolution had on Victorians, followed by an hour and a half discussion of Dr. Jekyll.

Now I will be the first to tell you that I write questions and notations in the margins of my book as I read.  And most of the time, I try to look up the answers in order to make connections between events and provide answers to myself.  This week, I ended up leaving several of my questions unanswered. (it happens sometimes)

So when we got to the discussion part of our class, I wanted to ask the professor and my fellow students their opinions and bounce ideas around… BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT A DISCUSSION SHOULD BE.


Our “discussion” consisted of our professor taking about five minutes to see what we found interesting in the text, lecturing for about 15 minutes on the themes of Dr. Jekyll, and about 10 minutes of students asking the professor questions.

That’s right.  Our hour and a half discussion was shortened to 30 minutes.  And I don’t feel like it was a real discussion, either.

I think I spoke up only three or four times in class… which is very little in a class of 12.

I spoke up when the professor was speaking about Darwinism shaking the foundations of religion and the literary device of poetic justice.  I asked if this was when literature began to illustrate more realistic endings such as the villains getting away with crimes. (Yes)

The professor lectured a little bit about the Victorian fascination with the idea of the Duality of Human Nature.  So I also asked if the Victorian Era was when scientists started using a dichotomy system to identify plants.  (The term that I couldn’t remember in class was Binomial Nomenclature)    I was greeted with silence and a brief Google of the term dichotomy… which yielded not much of anything useful.

I wanted to know if that fascination with the twin sides of nature was perhaps influenced by the scientific advancements of the time.  Binomial Nomenclature was a term that came into use in 1875-1880s, during the Victorian Era.  (So, yes)

Later on in class I asked when the Opium Wars occurred.

Strange question, right?

My professor looked at me like I was odd in the head.

“Your questions are always so… interesting” is what he said, but the look on his face and his tone said otherwise.

Is it a strange question? Is it a stupid question? No.

When you look at the way that Dr. Jekyll’s life fell apart due to his addiction to the pleasures he experienced after letting go of his inhibitions, imbibing a certain potion, and “freeing” Mr. Hyde.  He even exhibits the classic growing tolerance for the drug, the addiction costing him money, and suspicion falling on his good name as he continues to be influenced by his addiction.

Opiates were one of the more readily available drugs of choice for the British populace due to the Empire’s influence in India, the poppy fields they grew, and the trade routes to China where opium was extremely profitable for the Empire for some time.

Turns out both Opium Wars occurred in the Victorian Era.  The First was from 1839 to 1842, while Queen Victoria was still relatively new to the throne.  The Second occurred from 1856 to 1860.


At first they may seem like odd questions or random question, but they have relevance to the lesson at hand.

Professors, if I am paying your college several thousand dollars to attend your courses, don’t shorten my class and make me wonder why I’m paying you money for something I can look up on the internet at home.

Teachers, Professors, please do not look at your students like they are insane for wanting to make a connection across curriculum.  Science and History are applicable in an English class.

Please, Please, Please do not treat a student’s questions as if they are unimportant, or a waste of class time.


Thank you for listening,

Ms. Turner


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paul MacLean
    Sep 10, 2013 @ 22:36:08

    You are a learner after my own heart! We just love to learn. We are so anerdable. I have found when a group isn’t on my vein I need to be my best teacher. I also have to remind myself that I can come from totally out in left field with my free thinking and become easily misunderstood. Filter, filter, filter. You are already seeking an answer because you posed the question. If you don’t get what you want, discuss it elsewhere with apt persons. I didn’t particularly love some of my professors but I suffered minimally when I had such a library close by, or student lab, or concourse full of people to mingle with. I do feel your pain. Keep trying. You’ll get there.


    • Ms. Turner
      Sep 10, 2013 @ 23:07:17

      Thanks! I think it was just a shock to my system to come into a literature class and not have people interested in how the literature was connected to everything else. Thankfully I have great friends and family who choose to support my love of literature! 😉


  2. Paul MacLean
    Sep 11, 2013 @ 18:49:15

    Once I learned to read I became forever free. Books are awesome. I would want more discourse too in a class I paid so highly to be in. Can’t wait for you to get your own students so you can share the wonders of the world through literature! Who knows? Maybe you’ll wake that professor before it’s over. Best of luck!!!


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