Saturday, September 14, 2013

Smartest Guy in The Room (A Short Story)

No matter where he was, Tim Callahan was always the smartest guy in the room. All through college and grad school, his professors doted on him for his outstanding academic contributions. No one in the sociology department -- including the teachers -- could hold a candle to Tim's knowledge on any given topic. He graduated at the top of his class with a PhD in sociology.

Tim's academic reputation practically guaranteed him a high profile career in the field of sociology. Within mere months of graduation, he had accepted a position as a research professor at a top tier university. He was only 24 years old and poised to revolutionize his field -- or so he thought. 

Tim struggled as a teacher from the very first day. He always presented the information clearly and thoroughly. He had PowerPoint presentations and handouts filled with excellent points. Even so, Tim could never seem to connect with the students. He might have noticed that he was having a problem when more than half of the students in his classes withdrew. He might have suspected something was amiss when many of the junior and senior level sociology students opted to change their majors and left the department altogether. But Tim did not notice. 

That is, until he received an email from the concerned parent of one of his most promising students.

Hello Dr. Callahan, 
   My son James is a senior sociology major. He really respects you. I can tell that he has learned a lot from your classes. Even so, I am becoming concerned. I have noticed a dramatic change in James' attitude since he began taking your classes two years ago. He has become cold, distant and frankly, rude. It is a side of him that I had never seen before. He was always such a considerate young man. I can hardly talk to him anymore, and when we do talk, it's like we don't even speak the same language. James has gotten so smart that trying to show him the error of his ways is actually sort of intimidating. He always has a complicated sociological response for everything that I try. He has learned so much from you, so please do not think that I am complaining. It is just that I know James considers you a mentor. If there is anything that you can do to encourage him, that would be greatly appreciated.
   Thank you, 
      Janet Peterson
The words of the email sounded eerily familiar. The situation reminded Tim of the tension plaguing his own family in recent years. His mother had used nearly all of the same adjectives: cold, distant, rude. For the first time since his own family struggles began, Tim suspected that he might be the problem. 

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