Every PhD I know has stories from graduate school of THAT professor. The one who loses it, goes off the deep end and finally makes some decisions that are odd, weird, or just plain screwy. Stories of THAT professor are usually told over beers at a professional meeting and start with "Remember the time when..."
Well, yesterday I pulled a stunt that may put me into THAT category. I'm currently teaching a PhD Applied Econometrics class to 32 first and second year PhD students--yes, 32! (Due to a scheduling change we had to combine the first and second year classes this year so I have way more students than I can handle.) This class is the last in a a sequence of applied econometrics classes and my job is to take the students from classroom students to researchers. These are smart people taking the highest level class we have to offer, and frankly they can pretty much learn anything on their own at this point.
Anyway, as part of a project I am working on, I've been struggling for the past week with an econometric problem. It's something I should be able to figure out, and given enough time, could probably figure out, but given all of my other duties, I haven't yet figured it out. This is frustrating to me.
I don't mean frustrating as in 'gosh-dangit,' but frustrating as in @#$%^&*!!!
Losing sleep frustrated.
Questioning my training and abilities frustrating.
So yesterday morning I cracked. Rather then spending the morning thinking about class, I obsessed over my problem. Then I realized: "I have 32 captured students who know all the econometrics I have forgotten since graduate school." So...
Yesterday's class went like this: I began by announcing I was calling an audible. Instead of talking about simulation based approaches to discrete choice models, I am giving a problem to solve. I then spent 1/2 hour explaining (ranting about) the problem, my attempted solutions and where I thought the problems were.
After my insane hair-pulling rant, I told them their solution is due in two weeks. I don't care if you work individually, in small groups or as a class as a whole. You pick. Work together. Be smarter than someone else. Show me what you know. Talk to each other. If you work in a group everyone in your group will get the same grade.
In fact, I don't care about your grade.
I just want answers.
Then I left the room.
I have no idea what happened after that.