Up the Down Staircase

Non-traditional Student Fun

This story was originally published on my vet school blog, “Wet Cleanup on Aisle 5.”

Up the Down Staircase is a great little epistolary novel from the 60s that follows the life of a high school teacher via office memos, letters, lesson plans, student essays, scraps from the trash can, etc.

I read it when I was a kid, and the one thing that really stood out for me was the inanity of the administration, with its penchant for rules, one of which is the inspiration for the book’s title.

As I start this semester, I can’t help but be reminded of that book. And that is not a good thing.

First, there was the memo from the dean that listed the twelve or so Webster’s definitions of the word “mandatory.” He was reminding us that some of our labs have mandatory attendance policies, and, lest we’d forgotten the meaning of the word mandatory, he had provided some definitions for us. I’m not sure whether he’d intended for that to be an amusing way to get his point across, but it came across as “Up-the-Down-Staircasey” for most of us. As in, a collective rolling of the eyes.

Next there is the professor who is very fond of minutiae and rules. Here is where to put your name. Here is the two-page explanation for an exam that is all of ten questions. Please do not adjust the thermostat. Please return your seat backs and tray tables to their full upright and locked position. We think this person sneaks in and turns off our lava lamp every time we go to class.

Then there is the professor who, when asked a simple logistical question, responds with a lengthy explanation as to why they are the inappropriate person to ask, and how, in the future, all questions of a logistical nature should be directed toward the course coordinator. It would have been simpler and faster just to answer the initial question.

There is also the professor who, when it is brought up that many in the class are confused or befuddled, responds with, “I have been teaching this class for XX years,” or “They should know that by now.” Oh, so helpful.

Now, all this is not to say that I don’t generally really like my professors, or my classes. I do. But one of the things that worried me about returning to school (reference this post) was being treated like an underling.

During my two years of prerequisites, most of my professors were fantastic. They treated me as a peer, but also as a student. It wasn’t a difficult balance; it was just professional courtesy.

Oddly, I can’t say the same for vet school thus far. I’ve run across a lot of “I am the teacher and this is how we do things” mentality, rather than an atmosphere of “Hey, we’re in this together; how can we do things better?”

On good days, it just makes me laugh to see behavior that would never fly in a corporate environment. On bad days, it makes me grumpy.

Last week was mostly bad days. *sigh*

Perhaps I need to write this on the blackboard 100 times: I will not go up the down staircase. I will not go up the down staircase…

About The Author

LaShelle Easton is a veterinarian, animal communicator, and author who hates describing herself in those terms because they put her in a box and leave out the fun stuff, like budding guitar player, chocoholic, tea lover, bookworm, crazy cat lady, computer geek, dinosaur fan… She lives on the edge of the North Cascades with The World’s Greatest Husband and their woggledog, cats, chickens, and sloth.

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