Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I love you number guys.  But it's always a math professor.

I'd understand if it was a test day, and some students were squeezing out those last couple minutes to check their work.  I'll cool my heels for that, because I get it.

But it's usually not.  It's usually "Just one more problem."  Or "Just one more question."  Or "Let's sit here and do problems so we're the only two people in the room."

Meanwhile, my students and I are lined up in the hallway, waiting with increasing impatience.  And when they finally leave, I have to smile and say "Oh, no problem," while I try to log onto the classroom management software (which takes a good four minutes to boot up, four minutes of class time now because you didn't let me in the room), get my preliminary boardwork done, and arrange handouts.

It is not okay.  I am being polite to model that respectful behavior for my students, but it's not okay.  You've taken my time.  You've taken their time.  Class started, officially, two minutes ago, but your math problems were more important than my skills and content area, apparently.

And don't give me "Oh, time got away with me."  The big hand counts off minutes.  The little hand, hours.  My class?  It starts at 9:00 AM.  Yours ends at 8:50.  This is easy.  Big hand two big marks from straight up, you say "we'll continue next time" and pack up your markers and feelies and whatever else you use for math these days.

And it's always, for some reason, a math professor.  And moreover, it's always -- every single time -- an adjunct.  I used to be an adjunct.  If you're giving extra free labor to the university, you're a chump.  We don't pay you enough for that.  Pack up, go home, and let me get on with my class.


  1. Here I thought it was just at my institution.

    Of course, I just walk in and start setting up. The one time anyone questioned me on this, I said, "Your class is over. I need to set up for mine."

    He looked flustered and annoyed, but he packed up and left, and I never heard anything about it.

  2. I do allow my students the "between classes" time when there is a test--up to two minutes before the next class starts. It's the "no man's land" of scheduling.

    If a class were still sitting in my room at the time my class started, I'd wave my students in and start taking attendance.

    And if I needed time to boot up the electronics (I almost never do), I'd say "Pardon me..." as I entered four minutes early to do it. And if another prof let themselves in to do that while my students were still there, that would be fine too.

    I don't consider any of those actions impolite. The kind of behavior that I model for my students is that of a person that is respectful but doesn't let themselves get trod on by people who think their own interests are more important.

  3. I've been on both ends of this problem. Most universities/colleges have 10 minutes between classes, and I think the unwritten rule is that 5 minutes are for the last professor to pack up and answer a couple questions, and the other 5 minutes are for the next professor to set up. As soon as my 5 minutes start, I walk in and do what I need to do regardless of what the other person is doing. Once that meant walking in while the person was still lecturing. He asked, "Can I help you?" and I said, "Yes, you can end your class on time." and proceeded to log him out of the computer. He was miffed but didn't say anything else and it never happened again.
    Either person who thinks the entire 10 minutes is for them is unreasonable in my opinion.

  4. Dead on, Naughty. I wait until 5 minutes into the break, then I step forward and stand beside the lectern and give the previous prof an expectant look, because, as Chiltepin noted, it actually takes a few minutes to do all the booting up of various software programs. Only once did this involve actually interrupting the prof, who was clearly on a passionate roll and had lost all sense of time and space [which I brought to an abrupt halt when I stepped into her line of vision between her and her audience], every other time it involved the prof answering questions to a crowd of students - apparently, from the inane questions I overhead being asked, Introduction to Philosophy 101 is wayyyyyy over a lot of youngins' heads...

  5. I just walk in once the halfway point between classes is broached. I've had such horrible looks and comments from people. And I don't know what else to say except, "You gotta watch?"

    It's the same thing as when students think their lives are the only ones that matter. It's maddening, and enough to make me want to fight sometimes.

  6. I'm usually the jerk running overtime, but I always get my stragglers cleared out by a few minutes before the next prof's classtime, and I certainly don't mind if the next prof comes in and starts setting up. In fact, I'll invite hir in. I am, after all, the jerk in this situation, and it's up to me to put things right.

    But then, there's the tenured asshole who demands--loudly, in front of students--that you vacate the premises the very second your class is over because you're a lowly gradflake it's now HIR classroom.

    One evil rat fink bitch did this to me, and then she complained to her hubby, the director of Intro to Hamsterology courses, who then in turn bitched me out.

    I have not forgiven either of them, nor shall I. Revenge, when it comes, will be ice, ice cold, and its sublime nectar shall taste all the sweeter.

    1. I had the tenured asshole yell at my "lowly gradflake" TA self one time. It was during finals week. He was one of about 10 professors of a low level engineering course that gave a common final, all during the same time frame, perfectly acceptable at my grad school.

      Unfortunately, one of the scheduled rooms for the common final happened to be the room that the evening class I was teaching had been using all term and at the same time as our scheduled final. He read me the riot act and ordered my students to leave immediately.

      Fortunately, I always carried the current Schedule of Classes in my backpack. I very nicely showed him the listing for my class, complete with my name, verified that it was my name by showing him my ID, showing him the Final Exam schedule and the fact that my class was scheduled for that location and that time.

      He stood there looking dumbfounded until I said, "If you're going to yell at someone, go yell at the scheduling person that screwed this up. Until then, get the fuck out of my room. Sir."

      Fortunately, it didn't come back to bite me in the ass, not that it really could have that badly. I wasn't dependent on the TAship and it wasn't a requirement of my program.

      Oddly enough, for my remaining four years there (2 more as a grad student, 2 as a full-time temp), students didn't fuck with me.

  7. It's not ALWAYS math people. At my campus it's the discussion leader / English profs who let their discussion of Nabokov or whatever devolve into celebrity gossip. Sometimes the whole class is laughing so hard, it's no wonder my students are staring in the tiny window with hate.

    "How come Dr. Hector doesn't make us laugh?!?!?"

  8. For me this semester, it's an English as a Second Language Proffie. She's very animated (probably useful when you're trying to get people to understand in a an unfamiliar language), but she's not good at watching the clock (there is one, and my pointing out, politely, fairly early in the semester that it was a bit slow hasn't really helped all that much). I think part of the problem is that her students are still in a probationary/pre-enrollment program, and don't have other classes to get to. Nor do they visas that allow them to hold jobs. And they're extremely polite. Put all that together, and you don't have the built-in signal that class is going to end in 5 minutes that mine provide by beginning to pack up.

    She also needs to learn, and teach her students, an English phrase that I use pretty frequently at the end of my own classes: "just let me log out of this computer, and I'll be happy to discuss your question in the hall, so the next class can come in."

    1. Part of the problem definitely is that students continue to resist coming to office hours (though mine are seeing a slight uptick in use this year), but seem to be rediscovering the joys of face to face communication. Those who don't try to have individual conversations in the middle of class (usually when they're supposed to be doing group work) generally prefer to have them immediately before or after class. I have a colleague who hold office hours in a computer lab in the building in which most of our classes meet (a c. 5-minute walk from the building that houses our offices). I think he's on to something.

  9. For me, it's the math people and the Economics people. Writing formulae on the board takes time, don'tcha know?! But on our campus, one of my Philosophy colleagues is notorious for having not realized that a whole another class had moved in (with a professor) while he was still writing on the board. He allegedly turned around to exemplify a point and only THEN realized that his whole class had left and that the new class was deep into a quiz.

  10. I run over by about five minutes in about a quarter of the lectures, but never past that (unless it's a test, and then I would give them infinite time if I could, but cut it short at 10 minutes of overtime.) We have fifteen minutes between lectures in a given room.

    On the other side of things: I'm low-tech, no setting up needed; I just walk in as close as possible to the official starting time. If another instructor or stragglers are still there, it doesn't matter. I say hi, they act sheepish, my students walk in and we get started.

    And really, what is it with math people? Maybe they have so many amazing things to say, the margins of a standard 50-min lecture are too small to contain it.

  11. This is some quality misery, people! Made my morning.

    At my current job, I've only had this come up with one of my departmental colleagues. Sticking my head in the door is enough to get hir to check the clock and clear out in due order--but the funny thing is how the students always have this look of sheer panic and embarrassment because NO ONE dared speak up to tell hir that class time was up ten minutes ago (and somehow zhe managed to lecture right through the inevitable shuffling of papers and coats that comes with the bitter end).

    But my first year of grad school gave me my most memorable classroom occupation experience. I was early to an evening class, and the first to arrive. We had a designated grad seminar room, where we had the luxury of never encountering scheduling overlaps or even needing to share the room (which was tiny to begin with) with other departments. So I opened the door, thinking I would sit and reread my notes before class, and to my shock some unknown (male) professor was chatting and laughing with a small gathering of (female) undergrads/groupies, all of whom turned to give me a dirty look. I went down the hall to the office to wait them out, thinking they just needed another ten minutes to finish up, but after ten minutes passed, it became clear that they had no intention of decamping in time for our seminar. So I went in again, and as politely as possible explained to the prof that our grad seminar was due to begin (another grad had joined me by this point). We got a barely coherent explosion about how their usual classroom's door had been locked, and they went around the building trying doors until one of them opened, and now it was our problem that this classroom was occupied. Finders keepers, basically.

    Flabbergasted, my friend and I didn't know what else to do, so we returned to the office and told the secretary what was up. The secretary -- a wonderful, brassy Long Islander with a looong history at the department -- marched straight out to the seminar room and somehow managed to throw the class out while maintaining both her dignity and complete professional control over the situation. We were in awe. She stood with us until the last student (and thus the last dirty look) turned down the hallway, and then the room was ours.

    I try to channel that secretary whenever I encounter such brazen academic egos. So far it has served me well. (But seriously, who the eff just goes around trying doors in a class building and expects everyone else to work around their half-assed work-around?? The nerve of some assholes.)

    1. gotta love the longtime secretaries/assistants.

    2. At the root of many such incidents one finds administrative or clerical incompetence (like locked doors).

      Many years ago I arrived at my classroom just before starting time to find my students sitting in the hallway. Our classroom was fully occupied by older students, and somebody at the front was about to start something. I walked in and told him this was my classroom, and would his group please find another place to meet. He insisted he had reserved the room, and the closest thing to an altercation this side of a newsworthy event ensued. I was an assist prof, the other guy of unknown seniority (other department, doesn't matter), but older. I basically told him classroom instruction had priority, physically occupied the room and told my students to walk in. He left with his crowd, muttering words like "unprofessional" and worse under his breath.

      Turned out his event was a one-day statewide workshop for teachers. And here is what had happened: this was a new building, and because in some floor plans this classroom appeared with a "moveable partition" (never physically put into place) it had been assigned two numbers in the classroom reservation system. Nobody had bothered to go to the building and check if the mapping of classrooms to room numbers was well-defined.

    3. Peter:

      The timetabling department at the place I used to teach at often made mistakes like that. That was one office that was in a state of continuous confusion. On the other hand, it knew exactly when its coffee and lunch breaks would occur for the next several years, possibly down to the exact nanosecond.

  12. "The nerve of some assholes."

    LOLOL! (I know, I'm getting a kick out of a lot of one liners lately!)

  13. It's the math and physics profs that leave the whiteboard covered with odd symbols and calculations. Dude, erase the board!

    1. It truly is more fun to walk in and look at cryptic isolated words floating in a mostly empty background.

      "empowerment= liberation, freedom?"

      My students and I stare at it for a few bemused seconds, wondering what on earth they could be talking about.

    2. M-A & M:

      Not erasing the board's bad enough. All it took was a minute or so to remove what as there, though if was a whiteboard and the stuff had been there for several hours, it required some elbow grease.

      Worse, however, is if one has a lecture first thing in the morning and the room had been used for an evening course and left in a mess. That happened to me once and I chewed out the timetabling office for that. If I was supposed to do my job properly, then somebody had better make sure I have proper facilities in good condition to work in.

      But, as I mentioned elsewhere on this posting, the timetabling office at the place I used to teach at left much to be desired. It didn't help that it was run by a new-age space cadet who always went along with whatever educational or business philosophy which happened to be fashionable, no matter how silly.