Topic 5

ESSAY (50 minutes)

Compare and contrast the relationships between the students and their teacher in “Students” and “Crow Lake.” In your response, you must discuss both passages.

Guidelines For Your Response
• Show your understanding of both passages.
• If you do not discuss both passages, you will not receive full marks.
• Write approximately one to two pages.

The poet relates his experiences teaching a college English class.


by Tom Wayman

The freshman class first printouts

showed birthdates so recent

Wayman was sure the computer was in error.

One young man, however, was curious

about Wayman’s mention near the start of term

of his old college newspaper:

“You were an editor when? Wow,

that’s before I was born.”

The wisdom of the students

hadn’t altered, though.

Wayman observed many clung to

The Vaccination Theory of Education

he remembered: once you have had a subject

you are immune

and never have to consider it again.

Other students continued to endorse

The Dipstick Theory of Education:

as with a car engine, where as long as the oil level

is above the add line

there is no need to put in more oil,

so if you receive a pass or higher

why put any more into learning?

At the front of the room, Wayman sweated

to reveal his alternative.

“Adopt The Kung Fu Theory of Education,”

he begged.

“Learning as self-defence. The more you understand

about what’s occurring around you

the better prepared you are to deal with difficulties.”

The students remained skeptical.

A young woman was a pioneer

of The Easy Listening Theory of Learning:

spending her hours in class

with her tape recorder earphones on,

silently enjoying a pleasanter world.

“Don’t worry, I can hear you,”

she reassured Wayman

when after some days he was moved to inquire.

Finally at term’s end

Wayman inscribed after each now-familiar name on the list

the traditional single letter.

And whatever pedagogical2 approach

he or the students espoused3,

Wayman knew this notation would be pored over

with more intensity than

anything else Wayman taught.

2 pedagogical: relating to teaching and learning

3 espoused: adopt or support


In this passage, the narrator recalls a childhood experience with her brother Matt.

Crow Lake

by Mary Lawson

My job—assistant professor, invertebrate ecology—has a number of components: carrying out research, analyzing and writing up my findings, writing papers for publication, giving papers at conferences, supervising graduate students, teaching undergraduates, plus a ridiculous amount of administration.

The research I love. It calls for patience, precision, and a methodical approach, and all of those I have. That makes it sound dull, but it is far from dull. On a pure level, it allows you to feel that you have added your own tiny piece to the jigsaw of scientific knowledge. On a more basic level, an understanding of the environment is essential if we are to avoid destroying it.

Research is the most important part of my job, and I never have enough time for it. The writing of papers and articles I don’t mind. The exchange of ideas is vital, and I’m prepared to do my bit. I don’t much care for giving papers at conferences because I know I don’t speak terribly well.

I’m clear enough, I can present a well-structured paper, but my delivery lacks zip.

5 Teaching I don’t enjoy at all. This is primarily a research university, and I only have four hours a week in front of a class, but it takes me almost a week to prepare each lecture and it eats great chunks out of my research time. Also, I find it hard to relate to the students. Daniel1 enjoys them. He pretends not to, in the same way that he pretends not to work—he works all the time, he just calls it something else. Secretly, he finds the students interesting and stimulating.

Secretly, I do not. I don’t understand them. They don’t seem to take anything seriously. Anyway, this “crisis,” if that isn’t too dramatic a name for it, came in the middle of a lecture. It started as a minor hiccup. I’d been explaining the hydrophobic2 nature of the hair piles of specific arthropods to a lecture hall filled with third-years, and I suddenly had such a vivid flashback that I completely lost my train of thought. What I remembered was Matt and me, in our usual pose, flat on our bellies beside the pond, our heads hanging out over the water.

We’d been watching damselflies performing their delicate iridescent3 dances over the water when our attention had been caught by a very small beetle crawling down the stem of a bulrush. He was about six inches4 above the surface when we spotted him, trotting purposefully downward. Where did he think he was going, we wondered, and what would he do when he reached the water? Did he realize it was there? Matt said insects don’t have noses as we do but they can smell and detect damp with their antennae, so probably he did.

In which case, what was he after? A drink? Matt said he’d thought insects got all the liquid they needed from the plants they ate or the blood they sucked, but maybe he was wrong about that. I said maybe the beetle was a she and was going to lay her eggs in the water as the damselflies did. Matt said he didn’t think beetles did that, but he could be wrong about that too.

I said maybe the beetle was just thinking of other things, like what to have for dinner, and wasn’t looking where he was going, and Matt said in that case he was in for a surprise.

But we were the ones who got the surprise. When he reached the water the beetle didn’t so much as pause. He just kept on walking. The surface of the water dimpled for a moment as his head butted into it, and then it wrapped itself around him and swallowed him up.

I was alarmed, I thought he’d drown, but Matt said, “No—look! Look what he’s done!”

10 I peered down into the water and saw that our beetle, still marching steadily downward, was surrounded by a glistening silver bubble.

“It’s air,” Matt said, craning forward, shading the surface of the pond with his hands to cut down on the reflection. “He’s got his own submarine, Katie. Isn’t that something? I wonder how long he can stay down.”

I know how the beetle did it now of course—there’s no mystery about it. Many of the creatures who live on the water–air boundary carry down an air bubble with them when they submerge.

The air is trapped in a velvety pile of hairs, so densely packed that they are completely waterproof. As oxygen is used up, more diffuses in from the surrounding water. As to the length of time our beetle could stay down, that would depend on the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water and how rapidly he was using up his supply. Generally, the more active the insect and the warmer the water, the less time he can remain submerged.

It was the composition of the hair pile that I was explaining to my third-year students when the memory of that day suddenly floated across my mind, momentarily dispersing my thoughts and causing me to stumble and come to a halt. I pretended to study my notes while I got myself together and carried on with the lecture. The third-years, who had roused themselves briefly in the hope that something interesting was going to happen, settled back in their seats. In the front row a girl yawned so massively that she seemed in danger of dislocating her jaw.

It was the yawn that got me. I’d been yawned at before—all students are chronically short of sleep and most lecturers have had the experience of looking out over a sea of snoring bodies—but for some reason I suddenly found I couldn’t go on.

15 I stood speechless, staring out over my audience. Inside my head, my inner ear played back to me the sound of my voice. The drone of it. The flat, monotonal delivery. And overlaid on top of the drone, like a film joined up with the wrong soundtrack, I kept seeing my own introduction to this subject: Matt and I, side by side, with the sun beating down on our backs.

The beetle sauntering along under the water, safe in his tiny submarine. Matt’s amazement and delight.

Matt thought it was miraculous—no, there is more to it than that. Matt saw that it was miraculous. Without him I would not have seen that. I would never have realized that the lives which played themselves out in front of us every day were wonderful, in the original sense of the word. I would have observed, but I would not have wondered.

And now I was putting an entire class to sleep. How many of the students reclining in front of me would have had the opportunity to see what I had seen, let alone in the company of someone like Matt? Most of them were city kids; some had never seen a real pond in their lives until they went on one of our field trips. This lecture was their first introduction to this particular subject. And they were more unfortunate than they knew, because if things had turned out differently, it would have been Matt standing in front of them instead of me. If that had been the case, not one of them would have been yawning. I am not exaggerating this.

I am not glorifying him. It’s a fact. If Matt had been speaking to them, they would have been riveted.

They had roused themselves again, curious now, aware that something was wrong. I looked down at my lecture notes, moved the pages around, looked up at them again.

I said, “I’m sorry. I’ve been boring you.”

1 Daniel: the narrator’s husband

2 hydrophobic: water repellant

3 iridescent: glowing rainbow colours that appear to change English 10 – 1008 Form A



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