or, College Students Say The Darnedest Things™ (Part I).
1. Yesterday was my final class of the quarter. At the halfway break, one student came up to me and said, "So are we doing anything super important in the rest of class?"
How does one answer such a question?
a. No, in fact, I hadn't planned anything at all. I just like to be here with you.
b. No, we are only going to do trivial and insignificant things in this college classroom.
c. No, we are going to watch cat videos on YouTube.
d. Yes, we are going to do the most important thing ever done.
I furrowed my brow and said, "We are discussing the Sontag essay and Seong-Oon is giving a presentation." I suppose my body language made my point, because he stared at me for a second and then slunk back to his seat.
I should have said, We are having an unannounced final exam based on the reading for today. Except half the class would have failed. Because...
2. I uncapped a marker, went up to the white board, and posed the simple question, "What are some of the main ideas Sontag writes about in her essay?"
"Just throw them out there," I said, and turned to the white board, ready to write. Sometimes students feel more free to speak up when you turn your back.
I turned and looked at them and asked, "How many people have read the essay? Raise your hands."
About ten of the twenty people present raised them. Mind you, the essay was THREE PAGES.
"I had a lot going on this weekend," one guy offered, unprompted.
3. One hour and twenty minutes into our one-hour-and-fifty-minute class, in comes Student X and takes a seat, flustered and breathing heavily. I have had this kind of student before: they believe that simply by showing up most of the time, they can somehow pass the class, despite never turning in assignments or participating in class discussion. (This must be a holdover from high school.) They also seem to believe that as long as you arrive at some point before class is totallly over, it counts as attendance.
But this particular student has some strange classroom habits. One day, I caught her working on sudoku puzzles. Last week, I heard a distracting crinkling sound while someone else was speaking, and looked over to see her rifling through an advertising flyer, like the ones from Target and Kmart that are tucked into newspapers. She was methodically circling objects. Then she folded it all up and tucked it back into her bag.
One of my colleagues had a student start flossing during class.
4. Last quarter, in the final week, a student approached me to pester me for an A. I told her she'd been doing good work, but the fact that she persistently came to class 20-30 minutes late hurt her grade. "But I have a math class at the same time as your writing class, and in fact my math teacher lets me out early to come to your class. That's why I'm always late," she explained. "Please give me an A?"
Can you imagine ever having approached one of your college professors and saying these things? It floors me.