Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be Baffled By How Quickly I Had to Get Into It This Semester.

First day of the semester. 19 pleasant looking freshmen.

I do about three minutes of overview about the class and a young man in the front row says out loud, without raising his hand, "Why don't you just give us the syllabus?"

I see a couple of students around him sort of smile. They've got a champion and it's only 8:03 am. "I don't give the syllabus out until the end of the first week."

"You should just give us the syllabus so we know what the class is about."

"Well, I'm telling you what the class is about right now."

"Do you have a syllabus?"

I reach into my briefcase and hold up copies of the syllabus in the air. The young man stands up and heads over. I put them back in the case before he reaches me.

"Why can't we have the syllabus?" He has to back up to his chair now and sit down again, empty handed.

"Because today I want to talk about the class. I want to share with you all of the information you need to do well."

At this point I notice the class has subtly shifted over to my side. Some people are staring at him open-mouthed.

He puts his earbuds in and folds his arms, places his head on the table in front of him.

I get up and walk over in front of him, wave to get his attention. "Listen, you don't want to listen, maybe it's best if you find yourself another class."

This really surprises him. He ceremoniously pulls one earbud out and looks up at me. He stands up, grabs his bag and as casual as possible walks out of the room. I hear a distant "Fuck" after the door closes.


  1. One wonders exactly what the belated revelation was that warranted the expletive. Nicely played, Hiram!

  2. Good for you, Hiram. This child appears to have been helicopter parented, since he shows a rigid adherence to a routine and can't even imagine deviating from it, and yet at the same time never learned any manners at all, quite possibly because he was never taught any. These are a particularly toxic species of modern student: good riddance to him. The expletive was because he lacked the imagination to utter anything else. Good luck to him in the workplace: even a fast-food outlet wouldn't tolerate him long.

  3. Excellent! This particular kid will probably drop out of school soon enough, but I'm sure this sent the remaining 18 a clear message. So everything will run smoothly.

  4. Well, if you ever wonder if it's them or us, I think this story proves it's not us. It's definitely, definitely them.

  5. Replies
    1. I wish I was doing this. It's brilliant.

  6. If the door were truly closed, you would not be able to hear anything the departing student said. I always give a fully syllabus the first day. My students do not have to wait.

    1. I'm sure I shouldn't feed this troll, but giving the students what they want is not a virtue. There are really sound pedagogical reasons for HIram's decision to hold off on the syllabus, not least of which is that it forces the students to think about what the topic of the course might mean without the instructor expressly defining it first. In fact, I'm considering doing it myself this week based on Hiram's post.

    2. "If the door were truly closed, you would not be able to hear anything the departing student said."

      that depends on how loud he said it. I can hear student conversations outside the classroom doors in some of our buildings..

  7. My institution requires instructors to have outlines to the class by the end of the second week. I don't know how many put it off that long, but it is permitted. Students want to know right from the start how much work a class will be, how tough to get an A, and all that. They're not taking it for the course material, or it wouldn't matter if they had an outline. When I was an undergrad. back in the '80s, several of my regular profs. (small department) gave out only the vaguest outlines, without even things like the weighting of exams. I guess they didn't have to and they would always reply when questioned that if they didn't spell it out, they could manipulate things to the students' benefit if needed.

  8. We're required to provide syllabi (which include a basic course outline, or at least major due dates) on the first day. But I still applaud the idea of at least starting the class period with something else (though I will freely admit I don't always do so. I teach a required class, and don't really expect to be able to generate enthusiasm, especially on the first day. I'm happy if a few students say, by the *end* of the semester, "you know; this was actually useful." It's a low bar, I know, but it gets me through the semesters.)

    This guy sounds like a real gem, Hiram. But I'm afraid I'm kind of hoping he shows up for the next class. My reasoning: he's probably going to have to take this class some time, from somebody, and of all the various proffie demographics out there, someone in yours (tenured male in the prime of his life) strikes me as most likely to be able to handle him (and you, in fact, have shown that you can handle him). I wouldn't wish him on anybody, but I'd rather wish him on you than on somebody for whom he'll show even less respect. Sorry; for your sake, I hope my wish doesn't come true.

  9. I make all my 200-level students go online to Blackboard and download the syllabus. We go over the highlights in class on the first day; there's a quiz on it the second class day. No kidding.

  10. And I heart you, Hiram. You told that student exactly what he needed to hear--and exactly what I would have told him.

  11. Poor lil baby didn't get things his 'way.' Had a tantrum. Best of luck in your real life maroon! (mis-spelling intended.)


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.