I recently sat down with Greg Bridgeman, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, hoping to learn how he incorporates different types of pleasure in teaching his classes. Greg is a popular figure on both Hopinsville Community College campuses, and the criminal justice program has flourished under his leadership. Students and colleagues know him as a literal and figurative straight shooter who always has time to share a good laugh or to offer a word of encouragement. However, I wondered how the principles of pleasure in the classroom could be translated into the pursuit of bad guys (and gals).
- “We all bleed blue.” Bridgeman noted that once students enter the criminal justice program, “we’re all family.” Students take many on-ground classes together, so they are able to feel part of a community in online classes as well, responding to one another’s comments on discussion board.
- “Students take my classes because they want to, not because they have to.” Greg observed that his students, like nursing students, have clear career goals and are motivated to obtain a degree that they know to be valuable. Graduates of the criminal justice program are in high demand by local local law enforcement and security agencies.
- “My classes involve the senses in doing practical stuff.” Greg says he rarely lectures for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. “Then we do something….like learning to use fingerprint powder.” He has a “batch of chemicals that smells like a decomposing body” that he uses to introduce them to one of the jobs harsher realities.
- “Students are often surprised by my classes.” “They’ve all watched CSI, which is useless—except as a recruiting tool—so they are surprised to learn that real policework is different. Mostly they are surprised by the way I teach.”Greg likes to pose a deliberately inflammatory topic and then “stand back and watch what happens.” The students are surprised by his emphasis on using negotiation instead of force to obtain compliance. “I’d rather talk than fight.”
- “I use a lot of humor in my classes.” Bridgeman finds that many of his classes develop their own insider jokes. (He shared a story involving “oink, oink” too long to recount here.) He also uses self-deprecating humor, including a favorite yarn about an elderly shoplifting suspect that he failed to handcuff. She subsequently grabbed a frying pan from a display and beaned him.
“I expect a lot from my students.” While Greg solicits input from his students about the content of his classes, he assures them that “the book reports and research papers are NOT going away.” He also expects them to participate in discussion boards. While noting that textbooks may not offer a real-world view of law enforcement, he still expects his students to master that material “as a starting point.”
At this point in our conversation, I was ready to enroll in Greg’s classes myself. How had he mastered the art of teaching? Who were his role models? So I asked him to share:
- What was your favorite class? I expected to hear about marksmanship or crime scene investigation, but Greg surprised me by replying, without hesitation, “Band.” It seems Greg played the tuba “not because I was good at it but because I was big enough to carry the thing.” He related that his band teacher was a man of great personal integrity who cared for his students in remarkable ways. Greg clearly learned from him the value of going the extra mile, and HCC students benefit from that lesson every day.
- What was your least favorite class? This question yielded another surprise….chapel! Because of a complicated chain of events, Greg attended several colleges, most of them religiously affiliated and therefore requiring chapel attendance. While he had no quarrel with the doctrinal aspects—he actually earned a minor in theology— he bristled at the “forced compliance.” (Greg came up with an innovative solution to this problem, but we’ll save that story for another day.)
- The Two-Drink Minimum: Part 3 (pleasureinlearning.com)