Tuesday, May 8, 2007

So much learning

Today I learned the word "gunner." But the problem is that there seem to be competing definitions for a gunner. Is it anyone who speaks up in class? Is it someone that speaks up often in class? Or is it someone that diverts the class away from the topic? And there seems to be even more ideas of this.

This particular concept will be difficult for me because I have been a professor. I encouraged students to speak in class. Most students responded with a dead-eyed stare or open-mouthed stupor. I loved the ones willing to discuss and participate. Those were the ones that tended to do well. They tended to be more prepared for class and had thought more deeply about the subject. In truth, the students that ended up doing poorly were the ones that kept completely silent and tried avoiding ever saying anything in class. But then there were the ones who spoke up having never done the reading or ignoring the topic completely. Tangents mostly just waste time. I hated those discussions.

Maybe law school is different, right? Most of them want to be there, right? But maybe I am delusional. Maybe it is just a microcosm of undergraduate, the people just happen to be more intelligent. Or if not more intelligent, able to do well on standardized tests.

I just don't know what I am going to be called if I talk in class.


IsmaelTapiaII said...

Here's the scoop on all of this. Some talking is good, even encouraged. Having never been a professor, I have no idea who tends to do well. However, I can say that a lot of people in law school seem to reverse the causal relationship: while participating because you're prepared means you're probably going to do well, participating does not, in and of itself, mean you're going to get a good grade. And, since grading is anonymous (or quasianonymous), you can't suck up to the teacher.

So, who's called what?

The word "gunner" has many meanings. The most common is "someone who always has the answer, always volunteers it, often to the extreme annoyance of her classmates." It is not a requirement that the person be annoying, but these kinds of people often are. Note, also, that "gunner" is not necessarily a derogatory term. A lot of the gunners in my class are admired.

The term only starts to have negative connotations when it is applied to people who feel as though what they have to say is more important than what the professor or other students have to say. Answering a question--or asking one--is perfectly acceptable and often strongly encouraged. Pontificating is not. Correcting the professor is generally frowned on. Being an ass is not good. And bragging or being condescending is just not cool.

In short, be the student you are, but don't be a tool.

As far as the caliber of people you'll encounter at school, you might be disappointed. Although law school is a graduate program, you have to remember that it's a professional school--these people aren't here to learn some esoteric art or science. They're here because they want high-paying, presitgious jobs. As such, be prepared for competative bullies who may or may not be more intelligent than the average undergrad.

I don't mean to give you the impression that it's all bad--there's a lot of good in law school. There are a lot of good people in law school, and a lot of really, really smart people. It all balances out.

Eliza said...

thanks, I had no idea gunner could be a good thing from what I have read. But I went back and found something from Harvard (the gunner gazette?) and it seems that gunners can have a good reputation.

A tool. Okay, no being a tool. I can do that.