Monday, April 06, 2009

Notes to students in my very large class

Okay, I need to start this rant with a qualified statement that I am enjoying the students in my large lecture class this semester. They seem interested in the topic, relatively committed to the purpose of learning, and they are a lively bunch. Yet, I can feel the creeping influence of spring fever rearing its ugly head. As a result, there are some things I wish I could say to these students.

1. I see you. Yes, I know you see me, up in the front of the room, but I see you, too. I see you sleeping, playing on the computer, reading for your next class, laughing with the girl next to you (hopefully not about my clothes or the way I talk)... I see it all. I often don't say anything. If it isn't bothering your classmates (you know, the ones who are trying to learn, despite your actions), I am gonna let it slide. I don't want to be the commandant of the classroom, if I can help it. That said, I also may come by and tell you to knock it off. After 12 weeks, I am kinda over it.

2. Class lasts 75 minutes. Not 60, not 70, but the whole 75 minutes. DO NOT pack up your stuff in the last 5-10 minutes and tap your foot, waiting anxiously for me or the guest speakers to finish. It is RUDE. At this point, I don't care if you really pay attention; I just want you to be patient and pretend to listen, even if you are bored.

3. I also see the people who use their clickers to sign in for attendance and then quickly sneak out the back. I am gonna mess that up by moving back the time for taking attendance to the middle or the end of class. I hate this game-playing, but if we are gonna play, I intend to win.

4. Be courteous and attentive to our guest speakers. They are taking time out of their lives, finding parking on campus, and making their way to our classroom. The least you can do is listen to what they have to say and ask them questions. They have a lot to offer to you, if you take the time to pay attention.

5. I actually have OFFICE HOURS. I know, it is hard to fathom. A professor sits in a room all by herself, thinking that interested students might just come by to talk. But if you have a concern or question, instead of emailing me or finding me on Facebook, just come by the office. I'd be happy to chat.

6. I know you are ready for the end of the semester. Just so you know, I am, too! But we have a few weeks left, and I am not ready to give up on teaching and learning. We have more interesting topics to discuss, and yes, they will be on the exam. So, I suggest you do as I am doing and try to buck up for the rest of the semester. I believe it will be worth your while. I will do my part and work to keep class engaging and interesting.

Well, that's it. Glad that is off my chest. Now that I have written it and read it over a couple times, I may need to say it out loud!


Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

It must be a universal. My students all started looking burned-out about a week and a half ago, and I feel like I've lost most of them.

I'm dancing as fast as I can, you guys.

undine said...

If you say it out loud, they'll be shocked into attention. I think in large lecture classes, they think that they're watching you through a one-way mirror and that you can't see them.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Amen! Amen!

Make them click in twice; once at the beginning and then at the middle.

And spring fever is universal. I tend to surprise the inattentive ones by calling them by their first names and asking a question when they least suspect it.

Sydney said...

It's not just in large classrooms! I teach at a community college with 35-40 students in a room and they engage in the same behavior, even when I walk right up to them and ask the class questions while standing and staring at them!