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Questions Case

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As a teacher, there must be several inevitable questions that you come to dread. While these questions might include "Will this be on the test?" and "Do we need to write this down?", perhaps the most dreaded question is "Did I miss anything?", which is frequently asked by a student after missing class. This last question is upsetting to the teacher on a number of levels, and one of the main reasons is that it has an obvious answer. If you missed class, of course you missed something. In Tom Wayman's poem "Did I Miss Anything", the mockery used by the teacher in the poem towards the question may be taken as a lack of respect for the student who asked it . However, while the teacher may appear to be chastising a student with the sarcasm of his response, it should be interpreted that he is answering in a humorous way to all students who ever asked the question, rather than singling out one person in particular. Multiple things are to be considered while analyzing whether or not the teacher is showing respect or contempt for the students. Any sarcasm used by the teacher in the poem may be understandable, and even slightly justified, when one considers how often the same question must be asked by students.

The venting of the teacher's feelings towards the question through sarcasm is partly due to the question being insulting to the teacher. A closer look at the actual question itself, "Did I miss anything?", reveals that it somewhat questions the value of the teacher's profession. It literally implies that a student believes in the possibility that absolutely nothing occurred during his absence, which undermines the value of the teacher's job in that it may be meaningless to attend class. This evokes the teacher's sarcastic response of "Nothing. None of the content of this course/ has value or meaning/ Takes as many days off as you like:/ any activities we undertake as a class/ I assure you will not matter either to you or me/ and are without purpose" (9-14). One can understand the sarcasm, and it is used in a humorous way to avoid directly insulting the student. It shows respect by assuming the student will be able to understand what is being taught through the clever response. A disrespectful approach by the teacher would have been to directly insult the student rather than answering with poetry.

The way the teacher answered this question can also be seen as a way of teaching the students that what they are asking is more than a simple yes or no question. The teacher replying with highly contradictive statements, that alternate from one extreme answer to another, fully emphasizes the need for students to truly think about what they are asking. The teacher states "Everything. I gave an exam worth/ 40 per cent of the grade..." (4-5) and eventually "Nothing. When you are not present/ how could something significant occur?" (23-24).



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