At some point in recent years, my students lost the ability of discerning when I playfully give them a hard time. To pick just one example of many from last semester…
Student: Did you get my homework that was slid under your door last Thursday?
Me: Oh, so *that’s* what I threw in the trash on Friday.
Student: (groans) I told my friend that she should’ve put it in your mailbox. Is there anything I can do to get my homework to you?
Me: Nope. C’est la vie.
I kept this up for about a minute before telling him that I was only kidding and that I had his homework. And this is just one of several anecdotes I could relate.
I conclude that either:
- I’m a world-class comedic straight-man up there with Bud Abbott and “Super” Dave Osborne,
- I’ve now old enough to be around the age of my students’ fathers instead of their older brothers, and so the jokes that worked 10 years ago elicit a different response now, or
- (more likely) Students have been so conditioned by past experiences with inflexible and uncompromising professors that they react submissively when I feign unreasonableness.