Music is the only language in which you cannot say a mean or sarcastic thing.
John Erskine (Author)
Last night my wife and I re-watched Stand and Deliver for the first time in several years. One aspect of Jaime Escalante’s teaching that caught my attention this time was his tendency to tease the students during class to get them to engage with him and with math. At least once, he went over the line in his teasing. He’s struggling to motivate his calculus students, who are all tired and run down from the pressure of studying for the AP Calculus test. His taunt of one girl prompts her to bolt from class, but not before saying, “I don’t appreciate you using my social life to entertain the class.”
Sometimes I have found it too easy to use sarcasm when interacting with students and I do wonder if I might have crossed the line a few times. I guess it’s worth asking: how does that line get drawn, and who’s in charge of drawing it?