Last week I apologized for using the word “interesting” in class. I was introducing a new type of radical simplification, when I said, “Here is an interesting problem.” Before I knew it, my subconscious prompted me to continue, “I apology for using the word “interesting”.” These reasons came afterward. Roughly I said, “I apologized because one, I don’t expect any of you to be really interested in this type of problem and two, I don’t really find it interesting myself.” I got a few laughs and we went about our business.
I think my use of the word “interesting” in this context was an affectation and a remnant of a bad habit. The sentence has a tinge of talking down to students which I want to avoid at all costs. I am trying to purge my classroom behavior of all such constructions. Writing this serves both as a reminder and as a penance.
By the way, I will never apologize for expressing a genuine positive emotion. If I happen to get the slightest spasm of embodied joy as I work a particular algebra problem , I want to share that feeling with my students. So I am occasionally exclaiming, “Wasn’t that cool?!” and the like. A few eyes roll but most students smile at my evident delight.