Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When you say what you say, what are you saying? Or, Mr. Figs, what do you think?

This will only be relevant (403 [yes, I used that joke earlier. Sue me.]) to people who took Dean Wheeler for Criminal Law first year. The rest of you, of course, are welcome to read on but may not get the full benefit as the rest. I'm taking Dean Wheeler for Corporate and White Collar Crime this semester, my last (fingers crossed) semester in law school. Over the years, I've come to realize that there is a method to his madness, so to speak. Of all the professors I've had, I don't think another cared as much for his students as Dean Wheeler did. Both from an academic as well as human side, Dean Wheeler truly cared. What he did not do, however, was remember your name. At least the way you pronounced it. I was called Mr. Figs for the first month of the first semester. Suggs became Scruggs, Wiener (pronounced Whiner) was pronounced, despite much protestation, "wiener" (as in the hot dog -- get your mind out of the gutter). No name was safe. It was incredible that he was able to memorize 105 names in 2 days, but it was even more incredible one that even names like "Jones" were not safe from being butchered.

First year, Dean Wheeler held class in what I can only describe as a shock and awe campaign. He called on nearly 30 people every class, at seemingly the EXACT moment their attention wavered, or they looked away. No matter if the man's back was turned, he knew, he just knew, you were not paying him pull attention. He conducted class in barely more than a whisper, so you were hanging on every word he said. It didn't matter if he called on you the first day, you were still fair game any other day (I would know, he called on me every week). Even better, if you didn't know, sometimes you would be granted a life line. Dean Wheeler would ask, do you have a friend you'd like to call on? Of course, the first two times somebody was asked this (Nate and Nathan...did you think I would forget?), they said, uh, well, I know Vik. Dean Wheeler looked over at me, and smiled, each time. Ahh yes, he'd say, Mr. Figs. What do you have to add today?

It didn't matter if you told him you didn't know, because it was in the confines of your mind. It didn't matter if you hadn't read, because the book was not available in the bookstore, because it was in the confines of your mind.

If you gave him the right answer right off the bat, he would mess with you. Are you sure, he'd say, questioning your belief in your own answer. You could never qualify a statement with "I think" or "I believe" and you sure could never end a sentence with a question mark in your voice.

If you rambled something semi-coherent or BS'd him, he was on to you. That's when he would press you, with his famous line, when you say what you say, what are you saying?

He knew he could steer the direction in a certain way by calling on certain people. If he wanted to see what a person I'd like to call a moron but won't thought, he would call on Barrero (spelling?) or Griffin (he of "well, they'd have to get him for something" fame"). If you had a ridiculous hypothetical (we don't need to go there, but it involves a rocket launcher), he knew exactly when to call on you.

This was the class where Phil dented my book when he became so enraged I didn't save his seat (which I never promised to do!!!). If you want that whole story, you'll have to wait till another time. This was also the class in which the famous rifle (raffle) story took place.

Which brings me to my point. I always thought Dean Wheeler was hard on us because we were first year students. We knew he cared, but he was tough on us. Other professors have admitted to being harder on first year students that upper level students. It all comes with the territory, we thought. It's just a rite of passage, I thought.


Ole Dean Wheeler does the same thing in Corporate and White Collar Crime. He called on me three times today, buzzed somebody who didn't have the book, asked somebody else when they say what they say, what are they saying? He told one girl she knew after she said she didn't. He didn't say in the "confines of your mind" but I hoped he would.

As of now, it feels like the completing of a circle or the proper end to the cycle. Start with Dean Wheeler, end with Dean Wheeler. Is his style going to get old now that I'm not scared? I don't know. I already know I'm not terribly excited about random recitation.

If you have any other Wheeler-isms, please leave comments. Yes, I remember the magic trick, I just didn't feel like typing it up.

No comments: