Thursday, October 25, 2012

My day

“Hey Dr. Ben, can we catch up to discuss my grade in your class tomorrow at 1:30?” said this evening’s email message, in its entirety.

Refresh my memory. Are you that boy in elementary school that I knew for a summer but lost touch with? Do we really need to catch up? No? Then you must be the student I saw yesterday (assuming you were in class – I don’t check because I don’t care). There’s not much to catch up on. Average your exam grades together and decide whether you want an F or a Withdrawal.


A group of students drop by my office for help as they prepare for the upcoming exam. So far, so good. After one student asks a question and I start explaining the answer, his cell phone rings. he answers it. And talks. And talks. I stare. I make a joke about how I’m happy to be put on hold. His friends laugh nervously. He keeps up the conversation. Some failing grades just happen. Some I look forward to.


We are beginning the second hour of an intense study session with a few dozen students. Their questions go beyond material that I’ve told them to study. Several had raised eyebrows of surprise (maybe fright) and I see one or two appreciative smiles as students begin to glimpse the beauty of quantum mechanics. We are rolling.

A small hand rises in the back of the auditorium. “What chapters did you say the exam would cover?” Exam? Oh, the one tomorrow morning. Yes, well, sugar, if you need to ask that question now, it really doesn’t matter what the answer is, does it?


  1. Sounds like your students really run the gamut from full-on will-this-be-on-the-test snowflakery to actual (gasp) interest in and dedication to learning. I hope you're enjoying the latter, and managing to keep the former from nibbling you to death.

    1. They do cover a wide spectrum of talents. Unfortunately, the worst of them siphon off more than their fair share of my time and effort. It takes effort to remind myself that they good ones are out there but I don't see them much outside of class. They are too busy studying.

  2. Oh dear and fluffy Lord. I'll echo CC here, and add a fifth of your alcohol of choice.


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