冷漠的女化学老师(The Elements of Teaching 精读11.3)

PROFESSOR KATHERINE SAUER was unusual. As a woman, she had struggled successfully to make her way in the traditionally masculine field of chemistry; as an American, she was considered odd because her only diversion was to read about the English game of cricket; and as a faculty member, she was found to be peculiar for agreeing time and time again to teach the basic course in chemistry to freshmen. Why, her colleagues asked, would she do that? "Because the students are so incompetent," she would answer. "Someone's got to stick the stuff down their throats." ("And how many of you," she would silently ask, "have the guts to do that?")

When a member of Professor Sauer's family remarked one day that the academy did not seem to elicit in its members a great generosity of spirit, she took that as a tribute. She could not imagine why she should think better of her students and colleagues than her professors had thought of her when she was fighting her way through graduate school, the first woman to do so in her field. They had put her to tests not required of the men in her program. Fearing that the results of her experiments were too good to be true for a woman, they had made her run them twice, sometimes three times; even her doctoral adviser, with whom she had collaborated in work that eventually gained him a Nobel Prize, remarked when she left to take her first position that she had accomplished much "for a woman."

Her first-term course was legendary on campus among those who had been there a while. Not knowing what was in store, her freshmen students, anticipating only hard work in a "hard" science course, were stunned that the material was easier than Professor Sauer. Most of them could learn the material well enough, but they could not please her. Without doubt, she knew her subject; her lecture-demonstrations were clear; the experiments she performed were interesting; and the results always turned out as they should. But even when the demonstrations yielded explosions, or sudden bursts of light, or gooey messes, she stood by unsmiling. They thought the surprises fun; an old hand at the demonstrations, she found them boring and routine.

In the lab,most senior professors would not deign to conduct lab sessions, leaving them instead to graduate students- Katherine Sauer was unremitting in her solemnity. "If the students don't take this seriously," she thought, "how will they learn?" Amid loud pops, test tube contents turning bright colors, centrifuges separating sticky substances into distinct components, students were always in a state of expectancy and excitement. To their "How did that happen?" her response was always "What did you expect? That's what's supposed to happen." Her colleagues in English and history loved her. After a couple of terms of her unyielding sternness, most of her students decided to major in subjects in the humanities. She thought that a good thing: "No need for anyone but the most dedicated to pursue chemistry," she believed.

To the great confusion of her students, Dr. Sauer used many expressions associated, as they learned, with the game of cricket. She would hail a series of successful experiments as a "hat trick" or a "maiden over." She advised students to "keep a straight bat" when writing up their results. She called the difficulties they faced "sticky wickets." And she told those who took untenable positions that they were fielding "at silly midon." Perhaps, her students thought, she was trying to make a joke. But the unrelieved seriousness of her demeanor eventually convinced them that these inscrutable comments, whatever their meaning, were consistent with her customary gravity.

Professor Sauer felt most at home with graduate students, especially those who were unmarried and could devote their entire lives to chemistry. This kind of devotion, in fact, she thought necessary of all graduate students, and she had gone so far in writing the university's guide to graduate studies as to recommend that married students live apart from their spouses. "Eros does not promote learning," she wrote. If few took her advice, many had to study with her. By that, she really meant "with her": she discouraged them from going off on their own until they had performed, reperformed, and performed yet again each experiment in her courses in physical chemistry. She had no use for the ways of one of her colleagues, beloved of all students. This man would enter his graduate history class the first day, tell his students that they could learn five times as much by reading in the library than listening to him for sixty minutes-and he meant it-then, with a twinkle in his eye and a little dog-eared notebook in his hand, enthrall his auditors with the history of the Portuguese caravel, of which, of course, no one in the world knew more. When his great work on Spanish exploration won the Pulitzer Prize, Professor Sauer attributed the award to the number of his former students on the prize panel, not the quality of his work.
Sauer 最喜欢教研究生,尤其是那些未婚的,能够把所有时间用在化学上的学生。她甚至在入学手册上建议已婚夫妇分开住。她说sex不能让学习提高(什么?)。

Graduate students found that since there really was no way to please Professor Sauer, they would simply do the work and get out of physical chemistry as soon as they could. In her long years on the faculty, only two students had pursued their work with her. One had gone into his father's chemical company, the other into advising banks about underwriting loans for industrial research. She had trained no research chemists. Many of those who had passed through her courses had, however, achieved distinction in related specialties. One in particular had become truly notable and, after years of pathbreaking work, had, like Professor Sauer's own mentor, received a Nobel Prize. When this woman invited all her former teachers to celebrate with her, Professor Sauer did not attend the gathering. "She probably got the prize just because she's a woman," she complained to a colleague.

When the time came for her retirement, Professor Sauer abandoned both her teaching and her highly regarded work and took off for Great Britain, where she could finally indulge her passion for cricket. She had been putting aside funds for her retirement, planning to leave one life for another, for she had never taken even a single summer off to relearn the game that she had taken up as a teenager on vacation with her parents. She believed that, like eros, fun and recreation threatened learning and research. So when her last term on the faculty had ended, she closed up her laboratory without regret and departed for London-not, however, before her colleagues bade her farewell at a dinner at which many told stories about the department, though not about Professor Sauer, and a few even managed to laugh at jokes about themselves. When her colleagues presented her with the most ridiculous and appropriate gift they could think of-a new book, Cricket for Chemists she admitted nothing. "I really don't know anything about the game," she said in thanking them. "Perhaps I should learn."
在告别时,她的同事们送给她一本书,化学家的板球Cricket for Chemists 。她也没怎么感谢,说,其实我根本就不太懂板球,或许我应该学习了。(学习。。。)



Anya Lu

Anya Lu