Toothless Tiger?

–From Christine Preta, Albany Law School, Date of event: 2002

My Contracts professor—a very smart guy who, unfortunately, recently passed away—was rather eccentric. He often came to class in Hawaiian tee shirts and sandals (even in the winter, and I go to school in upstate NY where there’s lots of snow). Anyway, he had been teaching for a number of years so he had quite a reputation with the student body.

He was extremely Socratic and barely lectured or even answered questions. He always ended up throwing them back at the class. Needless to say, by the end of the year we were all rather frustrated by his teaching (gotta love that Socratic method!). So he agreed to do a review session for three hours before his six-hour Contracts exam.

Everyone—and I do mean everyone—showed up for it. The classroom was packed. It was standing room only. He started the “lecture”—taking questions and actually answering them. Mid-way through answering a question one of his teeth flew out and landed on the desk. He just continued to speak, barely noticing that it had fallen out. The class was mortified—should we tell him? Did he know and was ignoring it?

Finally, I think he realized that no one was paying attention and casually picked up the tooth, washed it off in his coffee mug (which we think was filled with water), stuck it back in his mouth (it must have been a crown or something) and without missing a beat continued answering the student’s question.

It was one of the funniest things ever. Of course, we held our laughter until the review session was over!

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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