My law school has started, and the first month has been absolutely crazy. Thanks to the superb infrastructure and service industry of South Korea, I’ve been taking a lot of things for granted. For instance, Comcast installation took a good three days. DHS took forever to update my status. DMV registration took almost two full days (I never stayed more than 1.5 hrs in DMVs of Seoul). Insurance took forever. ‘Nuff said. And then professors kept throwing assignments. They don’t really explain things in class. I feel very fortunate to have some friends living nearby (one of the benefits of CCK!). Though many students are nice, it can be frustrating because I see them every day, and majority of them are kids fresh out of college. On the other hand, I’m the “unconventional student” with several years of work experience. I feel more at ease when chatting with other “unconventional students” (no offense, but teaching English for 1-2 year doesn’t really count unless you really meant to be a professional teacher).
One of my professors is quite a character (I’m using politically correct statement here). Here’s the history of our interaction.
I sent e-mail to all of my professors to explain my every-delaying Comcast installation situation, how I’m new to the area and there isn’t really any place to use internet, so it would be great if they could provide me some hard copies of online reading if there is any. I said it is likely to be sorted within next 1-2 weeks and added an apology. Most were friendly. One provided hard copy. Another reserved a book in the library. Another said the readings are from textbook so I shouldn’t worry.
Well, this…”special” professor’s reply was: No, I can’t. You just have to figure out.
So as you can tell, my first impression of him wasn’t the most positive one.
He posts on the webboard constantly, from his iPhone, 9 pm, whenever wherever. Then one night, he sent the whole class an e-mail with a picture of his puppy, and how it’s late Friday and how his spouse is working late so it’s only his dog and him in the home, so we all need to post on the webboard.
Why an earth would you send everyone an e-mail about your spouse, life, and pup? To STUDENTS?
He started to bring beam projectors. I don’t know why, but he doesn’t use screen. He doesn’t turn off the lights completely. He doesn’t really use zoom in features. He projects it right on the board. The board reflects light. So unless you are sitting right across from the screen, it’s hard to see. He restricts seating to first four rows.
I knew what’s going on and what’s being projected, but I couldn’t really read. Then he called me and asked question. I answered, “the thing is…I can’t see it from here.” So he said to come up. I came up and answered his questions. That evening, he personally sent me an e-mail, saying I should sit up closer.
I couldn’t help thinking “what the fuck…” I’m not a pre-schooler. I replied:
Yes, the same thought has occurred. I guess it was the lighting and small letters, because I can see the board mostly fine. But I will sit up closer. Thanks for your concern.
And next class, I pulled up two rows closer.
No change in lighting. No zooming. He called me again. Same thing happened. I was thoroughly annoyed. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only person having this trouble. One girl was called, and she, too, answered: “professor, I can’t really see. Could you zoom in?” Now that I think about it, most questions and answers came from the other half side of the class, but not my side. So I posted on the class webboard:
When you are using the beam projector, could you please either turn down the lights further and utilize zoom in, or provide us hard copies of what is projected? I know I’ve had the most problem regarding this matter, but I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem…
Guess what his answer was:
Sit closer or speak up, otherwise I wouldn’t know. Lights are already turned off, and hard copies are useless.
And then his TA told me he was annoyed, and somehow thought it’s rude for me to post it on the webboard. His TA’s word of wisdom was, that that’s just the way he is, he wants his students to treat him like God (btw, Miss TA, teaching English in Korea for a few years…doesn’t really count as “work experience.”)
If I were a few years younger, my reaction would be fighting it. But now that I have a bit more life experience, I know I’ll just have to suck it up. After all, he’s the grader and I’m being graded. I hate such kind of people. I don’t readily give my respect. I’ve seen a lot of not-so-respectable sides of big name people and wealthy family.
I bet he would love to be a professor in Korea.
Few weeks ago, a classmate of mine – another unconventional student, ex- Marine recruiter – had a chat, wondering why this professor left his job at some big Philadelphia firm after 7-8 years of practicing. I said he’s the hard type to work with. The classmate was basically thinking the same thing. “You see, even the law firm, in the end it’s business. He talks and writes e-mail in a very condescending manner. It’s hard to do business with that kind of person.”
After those three interactions, I think my classmate is right. And it was a learning moment (even if it involved emotional roller coaster ride). Even if you are a professional with the best performance and skill, or seller with the best product in the world, it can only take you to a certain point. In the end, it is human interaction. As long as you are not doing hopelessly lousy job, a lot of people will end up doing the business with someone who might be less in terms of the performance but has better personality and listens to you. I certainly would. If he was attorney and I am his potential client, I think I will go to someone else.
The success of business, or anything, isn’t a hidden skill or higher knowledge: be nice. Don’t be an asshole.