Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Revenge of the Absent-Minded Professor

Don’t think you’re pulling the wool over our eyes.

My late-night Monday/Wednesday class can be a frustrating one to teach. It has a higher percentage of traditional straight-out-of-high-school students than most night classes, and a couple of those are a real handful. This evening, the class had its weekly hour in the computer lab, during which I was showing the class the research resources available to them through the college’s library system, as well as giving instructions about how to cite research sources in order to avoid plagiarism. While my earlier evening class had paid rapt attention to the same presentation, most of the members of this class did not.

Afterward, a couple of the computer lab people asked me whether I had a problem with the students’ inattention. Well, I did, but I felt that at that time in the classroom, it would be a losing battle. It’s going to be far more instructive for those students when they get a failing grade on their next essay because they weren’t paying attention to the instructions on how to do it.

This is the same bunch that earlier got zeroes on their first essay of the term because they didn’t follow the instructions for formatting their essays. I’m not going to babysit and re-feed (regurgitate?) them material that I went over thoroughly in class. I provided the course content, and I know the problem isn’t my delivery, because my other class absorbed it just fine.

To the students who goof off instead of paying attention, I ask, do you think I don’t notice? Do you think I don’t care? Do you think you’re going to get away with not paying attention, just because I don’t choose to call you out in front of the class?

Believe you me, I do notice. And you’d be wise to mend your ways.

As illustration, I offer the following story. I have been told that it’s absolutely true, and that the professor and the classroom do exist. It smacks of urban legend, but there’s so much about it that is the same as I have experienced (including the clock’s reaction to the eraser), that I’m pretty sure it IS, indeed, true.

On some college campus, somewhere in the United States, there was a history professor who was well known for his absent-minded ways. In particular, he was known for losing track of time – his watch, if he ever bothered to wear one, was always either stopped or so completely off that it wasn’t worth anything.

His students had discovered that they could take advantage of this shortcoming. In the classroom where he taught, the clock was quite susceptible to shock, and if a chalkboard eraser was tossed against the clock, the minute hand would jump ahead a few minutes. So the students got into the habit of, whenever they thought the professor wasn’t looking, flinging the eraser up at the clock to speed up the time. Every day, class would get out much earlier than it should have, because the students jumped the clock ahead. Behind the professor’s back, they gloated over how they were getting the better of him.

Then came the day of the final exam. The professor handed out the blue books and the essay exam questions. “Your exam consists of ten short-essay questions,” he told the class. “For each half-century of the past 500 years, you must write a short essay describing the most significant developments. It is now 9 a.m. You have until 11:30 to finish your exam.”

The professor then calmly turned to the chalkboard, picked up the eraser, and proceeded to fling the eraser repeatedly at the clock, until it read 11:10. “Good luck,” he said.


Anonymous mboubou said...

I'm one of those students that never pays attention. I doodle, I write poetry (found your site through NaNoWriMo!), and I sleep. Generally, on the first day of class, I sit in the first or second row, but as the semester progresses, I take seats further and further away from the teacher.

Teachers that don't take attendance will only see me on test days, and teachers that do pray I don't snore. I just hate required classes. I can't test out of them because I'm too lazy to study, and I absorb enough information in the first ten minutes of class to get A's. I'm pretty sure I'm not your typical slacker, but I don't pay attention when I'm not engaged by material studied in class.

I know teachers notice; I know you care. I intend no disrespect, and I do lug my share of guilt around for it. However, I sincerely wish teachers didn't care. I hate having pointless converstations after class; I hate the threat of being kicked out of a class for nonattendance (which has not yet happened); I hate being graded on participation (which I've never had good marks in--either I care too much or too little).

This is a bit of a long post, so I'll end it. :) But now you have a student's perspective.

Sat Oct 29, 01:13:00 AM MDT  

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