Thursday, December 20, 2012

Six Years Ago on RYS.

Clever Carl from Cleveland Gets Heavy on the Hubbub, Bub, and Lays Waste to Socially Retarded Profs and Old School Conventions of Attendance

Q: What is all this hubbub about student attendance?
A: Who knows. I don’t get it. College students are adults so why are we professors treating them like high school students?

But don’t you care if students come to class?
A: I think they should come for their own good, but, no, I don’t personally care. I get paid whether they come or not. 

Q: But if they don’t come to class, they won’t succeed, right?

A: If my students don’t show up, one of two things will happen:

  1. They fail my class. This is the most common outcome by far and I have neither pity nor sympathy for students who fail because they were never in class.

  2. They pass anyway. More power to them! If they can read the textbook and figure it out on their own, that’s cool with me. My job is to ensure that students who pass my class are prepared for the next class in the sequence.

Q: But shouldn’t we be giving our students more than just a prerequisite for future classes?
A: Yes, of course. And for the students who care, my classes offer enrichment and beauty. The students who don’t show up and pass anyway don’t care about that. I’m happy to move them on to a higher-level course where they can be challenged at an appropriate level. At any rate, I would be quite the hypocrite to expect otherwise. As an undergraduate, I missed plenty of classes and still graduated summa cum laude. I knew my limits and I knew how to prioritize. One semester, I had a stupid course at 8:00 a.m. for one credit hour. On the first day, I found out that 100% of the grade was the final exam, so I never went back to class again. I got the assignments online the week before the exam, did them the day before the exam, and then showed up and aced the final exam. I’m not bragging; I’m simply pointing out that I need not get in the way of students who are capable of doing this. It is also not my job to be a truancy officer for those students who are incapable of such careful self-assessment.

Q: Why can’t we expect students to come to class every day? Aren’t we preparing them for the “real world” where they will have to show up everyday?

A: No, the professor is working in the “real world” and so he or she must show up every day. Students pay to come to college, so it’s their own money they’re throwing away (or more likely their parents’ money). Again, I get paid whether they come or not. When I start paying to go to work, I too will get to dictate what days I show up.

Q: Shouldn’t we find ways to motivate students to come to class? Maybe like scheduling a huge midterm on the Wednesday night class right before the Thursday of Thanksgiving?

A: If you want to be a dick, fine. As the professor, you have the prerogative to do this. Just cut it out with all your, “Back in my day…” stories. You hated being in school the night before Thanksgiving the same as everyone else. Quit kidding yourselves into thinking you never slept through a class as an undergraduate or never skipped class on the first nice day of spring. If you can’t relate to students on this point, you are socially retarded. Don’t blame this unfortunate condition on your “lazy” undergraduates.


  1. Fine dining restaurant? Bet they have spam, eggs, spam, bacon and spam or spam, eggs, sausage, and spam or my favorite, spam-spam-spam-spam spam-spam-spam-spam LOVELY SPAM! WONDERFUL SPAM! spam-spam-spam...

  2. If I taught a purely lecture course of 200 I would not worry about absences, but some of us rely on discussion to conduct class. A smaller class feels the weight of the absent students, and if there is a constantly shifting number of students present, the class never properly "gels".

    1. I agree with this. When a large chunk of a smallish class chooses not to show up every day, this can be very demoralizing for both the instructor and the other students. Worse, the remaining students will often blame the instructor for the "bad chemistry" of the class, or for not fostering class discussion or motivating the class.

  3. For the most part, I agree with Carl, but I get what Stella's saying, too. The remedy to the situation Stella describes is probably some sort of reading quiz or in-class writing or out-of-class writing due in class (and not submittable in any other way), but all of those are labor-intensive for the proffie (both because they need to be graded, and because they give rise to whining and excuses). At least in my experience, the million little tasks that the "keeping them engaged" part of the job generates (both creating all the "scaffolding" assignments and grading the #$%! things) is threatening to swamp the more substantive work. Aargh.

  4. This was around six years ago? Shit, I feel old.