I’m at that point in my life where the things that excite me would seem really boring to me from a few years ago, and the things that bore me now would have driven me off a cliff. For most of my teaching jobs, I’ve been in the dinky Liberal Arts building at my university or a corner some other colossal and overpriced building with buttons that raise and lower my desk and buttons to raise and lower the curtains which, when raised, show the thrilling beige wall of a hallways, and when lowered, make the room feel like a cave. So most of my classrooms have been pretty unimpressive, but not today. Today something magical happened. Today I felt something I thought was reserved for the kind of people that pay to hunt other people on private islands: money is power.
I’m an English teacher, so legally I’m not allowed to work anywhere built after 1864. However, my new employers must not have been told about the forced poverty clause in the contract of everyone working in the Humanities because they let me teach in a real science classroom. Now, I’ve been a student in a science class, and I’ve been stuck in a stairwell in the very science building I taught in, but neither of these experiences even remotely match commanding the room itself. At the helm of that classroom, I was no longer some paltry grad student with clothes that make me look like I’ve been sponsored by Goodwill. I was a Caesar, and my power was absolute.
I don’t know much about acoustics, but I spoke in the same tone and volume I always do, and there was a laughable difference between me in my Liberal Arts classroom and me in this coliseum of academic authority. My voice isn’t particularly impressive. I think I sound like your standard cartoon mayor: somehow my voice is deep while somehow nasal and sounding permanently sarcastic, Jerry Seinfeld mixed with a vacuum cleaner on wet carpet. But at the front of that class, where I can only imagine millions of dollars were poured into imbibing the walls with some kind of harmonic steroid, my voice transformed. I sounded like a hot honey saxophone solo in a speakeasy, and people listened because what choice did they have confronted with such warmth and melody.
But it wasn’t just what the room did that made it amazing; it was what it came equipped with. I usually teach in a room where I have to turn on the DVD player to get the projector to go dark while still keeping my computer screen working. It’s frustrating but manageable. This room was built after the DVD player had gone out of style; it was a room from the digital world. It didn’t have the pull-down screen I was used to. Instead, on either end of the room were two TVs each about 7 feet wide and 4 feet tall, and they were connected to the computer perfectly, and I didn’t even have to sacrifice a child to get it all working. With a button, I could switch between screens, turn them on or off, change the volume, and just writing this makes me realize how mundane that sounds, but that is amazing when you’ve had to politely ask all your students to please turn around so I can look at sensitive emails.
I feel like a starving man who, finally, has been given the butt end of a moldy loaf of bread. Maybe I’m overly excited because I got to use technology that most departments would expect, but damn it’s fantastic to not be held back by the literal place I work, and while that shouldn’t be a novelty, I get the feeling it always will be for English teachers. Ya know because we’re supposed to be destitute.