Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How to Behave in a College Classroom: Life According to Teacher Lady

Yesterday kicked off summer session. Only 5 weeks of Human Sexuality; only 12 students. It now takes me 20 minutes to go through my syllabus with my class; thanks to Inappropriate Sister, I added two bullet points. When I started teaching, my syllabus was three or four pages. Now it is six. If I stay in this game, by the time I retire, I imagine it will be 107 pages.

Unfortunately, I feel like so much of teaching is about "covering your ass." I swear, that's the first thing my advisor or department chair will ask me when I have a problem student, "Well, is it in your syllabus? Then you're covered." No one ever says, "Well, I don't think you're being unreasonable by expecting them to not bring Ebola-infested monkeys to class." They say, "Now, is there anywhere in your syllabus where you expressly prohibit bringing Ebola-infested monkeys to class?" I used to think certain things were just "common sense." Then I started teaching college.

Here's one I used to think was a "no-brainer." Do not bring a child - especially a sick child - to class with you. Last spring, I took a class from 10:45 - noon, then taught from 12:15 - 1:30. It was a fairly far distance to walk, but too close to drive (and no available parking, so driving would have actually made things worse), so I found myself often walking into class at exactly 12:15. This prevented students from asking me things prior to the start of class and this was sometimes bad. As in, "She didn't ask me before class, so I didn't get a chance to say, not just 'no,' but 'Hell, no!'" One day, I walked into our already overcrowded classroom to find one of my students (she was, I'm guessing, 20 years old) sitting there with her four-year-old daughter. (The chapter on birth control was more than a little too late for her.) Four-year-old daughter was adorable. And had one eye screaming, "I have conjunctivitis" and that eye was mighty pissed off and just about ready to pop off her head in a giant, oozy, crusty explosion. Since I had a lot of material to cover, I didn't really say anything. After class, the student came up to me - not to apologize, but to say to me, "Can you BELIEVE day care wouldn't let me drop her off?" Yes, as a matter of fact I can. And, did I mention, for some reason I am extra-super-susceptible to freakin' pink eye and I ALWAYS seem to get it when I have just purchased all new, very expensive eye makeup (and put in a new pair of contact lenses, of course) which must be thrown out immediately? But thanks for bringing your little conjunctivitis factory to class. That's great. I appreciate it.

So, there's the first rule.

Next rule:

Just so you know, kids, I can see you. Yes, that's right! You! Over there in the corner, text messaging up a storm. Or you, sleeping in a puddle of your own drool. Or you! Reading the student newspaper, with your feet up on the desk in front of you like my classroom is your own executive office. You two - writing notes on each other's notebooks. And, especially you two - chatting away about whatever is so important that you don't care if you disrupt the twenty other people sitting in your vicinity. I can see you AND I can hear you. Why do students think that entering a college classroom renders them invisible? Or do they think that where I'm standing, way, way up at the front of the classroom is not 20 feet, but 20 miles and therefore I can't see that well?

That one covers a lot: You are not invisible. Act accordingly.

Finally. (Sigh). This one never seems to stick. Ne. Ver. Turn off your damn phone. (And yes, it's in the syllabus.) Yesterday, the same student had her phone ring twice. Twice as in, once at the beginning of class, before I reviewed my "e-policy" and then again, over an hour later. Much as I love a good ring tone rendition of "Play that Funky Music White Boy," I just don't understand why she didn't turn her phone off after it rang the first time. And it's not just the ringing that's disruptive. It's the "Oh, my gosh, I'm so embarrassed, stop, stop, PLEASE stop ringing" digging through the backpack and shuffling of papers and everything else that goes along with it. Even though I have the satisfaction of knowing they will lose their participation points for that day (you'd better believe THAT'S in the syllabus!), it's just so annoying because really? Who is calling these kids? I have even put in my syllabus: Unless you are an EMT, physician, fire fighter or are serving in some other life-saving capacity in your spare time, your cell phone is to be turned off while you are in this class. Maybe I just happened to be surrounded by surgeons and fire fighters. Who knew? I feel safer already.

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Blogger Mrs. T said...

The "you are not invisible" schtick? I use that. Only I say, "I'm not on television. I can see and here you. I'm not like Montel." It's not just a college thing. It's a rude thing.
And the cell phones? Our students aren't even supposed to have them, so when they go off- and my bionic ears can even pick up the vibrating ones, they cough and look around, like "who's phone is that?" I once told my class "It's a cell phone, not a crack pipe."
I do a lot of preventative medicine, myself.
My mom directed a daycare for teen moms in our school district- so I am not really surprised by the Pink- eye- totin' girl. Yuck.
Is your syllabus as witty and clever as your blog? I always try and liven mine up a bit. In my make up work section, I write "Got a computer? Email me from your deathbed so you can stay caught up!"

June 14, 2006 8:28 PM  
Anonymous dear wife said...

Actually the bringing our child to class thing is not self evident. I know many professors who allow this. Now I am not talking about a four year old with conjuctivitis (wow I can't spell), but more in the baby realm. Actually I plan on toting my newborn with me to class since I will be giving birth during the semester. I will contact my professor first, but I do not see them caring. I even had a TA once who brought her four year old to class. He would just sit in the back of the class and color. But I always turn my cell phone off.

June 14, 2006 9:25 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Gah! Cell phones. I hate them in restaurants, classes, meetings, and especially when people talk and drive. You don't know how grateful I am that they are still banned on airplanes.

And really, having a child in the classroom on a regular basis would probably force me to go to the College President and demand my money back (mostly because transferring to a non-child attended class is near-to-impossible due to my restrictive schedule). I dunno. I've done the whole "Bring your child to work" thing (for 8 months, my boss was wonderful about this), but admittedly I got very little done. It takes a special kind of child to be quiet in class so Mom/Dad, the teacher and other students can be productive and learn.

However, bring in one with pink eye and I am out of there. I, like you, are extremely susceptible to pink eye AND I'm allergic to the normal drops, so I have to get the special non-sulphur based meds.

Maybe I'm just getting cranky and less tolerant in my old age. In all my years of school only one instructor in a special circumstance (we had a "free day" in a sign language class I took), ever have allowed a child in the classroom. And that one instructor only granted it because of the free day and all the students agreed to it by annonymous vote.

June 14, 2006 10:22 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Maybe you could have a phone basket and everyone has to deposit their phones in it prior to class.

I love the "I can see you" rule. Is it written on the chalkboard?

June 14, 2006 11:13 PM  
Blogger Schietto Sister said...

Even those who serve in a life saving capacity outside of class could SILENCE their phones. I always take my phone with me (when I'm not with my kids), but I silence it in any place that ringing would be the slightest bit disruptive.

I wish I could be invisible and attend your class!

June 15, 2006 6:53 AM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

I'm writing my syllabus for the fall right now. What is your policy on make-up exams? I suspect that, due to IS's behavior, it's been expanded. mwah hahahaha!

June 15, 2006 8:09 AM  
Blogger Fraulein N said...

You know what's sad, Teacher Lady? None of this stuff surprises me. Bringing a well-behaved child to class if it's TRULY NECESSARY and/or AN EMERGENCY (i.e., not all the time), one who knows how to entertain him- or herself quietly and not be disruptive? Fine.

But sick kids? Brats who haven't been taught how to behave themselves (and who you'll end up teaching in about twelve years)? Hell to the naw. And babies? BABIES? Are you - are you fucking kidding me? Just ... no. That's just one day you have to miss class and get the notes from someone else.

My cousin has horror stories about the time he spent at our community college. Chris Rock really wasn't kidding when he said it's called that because anybody in the community can go. Some of my cousin's female classmates (I'm talking more than one or two here) brought their kids to playtime -- I'm sorry -- to class on a regular basis.

I now understand why some professors have zero tolerance rules for food and drink. They kept me from bringing in a mug of tea on a cold morning, but they also kept dumbass in the back corner from spreading an entire movable feast over her desk and the one next to her. Most people don't like the smell of General Tso's chicken at nine a.m. Most people don't want to hear your bag of Doritos rustling in the middle of a lecture, thanks. There's always a few who ruin it for everyone else.

June 15, 2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...

I guess the students THINK you can't see them if you don't act like you can -- and what I mean is, next time you see them doing something other than paying attention, call them out on it! "Hey, Drooly! Leave and go back to bed if you can't handle staying awake for this class that you're paying for!" Um...or something like that. You can think of something witty, I'm sure. Your goal for the summer class should be to be more assertive and not let any one of these little jerks walk all over you! They've got to learn!!!

I seriously cannot imagine bringing a child to class, let alone a newborn. WOW.

June 15, 2006 1:21 PM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

I really don't know what to say except..............

"Can you hear me now?........Good."

June 15, 2006 4:48 PM  
Anonymous mothergoosemouse said...

I never understood sleeping in class. If you are so tired, then skip class and sleep in your bed.

But the rest of it? I'm suddenly feeling an urge to apologize to about three dozen teachers I've had over the course of my time in school.

And conjunctivitis is EVIL.

June 16, 2006 1:14 PM  
Blogger desiree said...

You only hated that kid with the conjuntivitis because you obviously hate Jesus and puppy dogs and all that is good in the world because you choose not to breed. How dare you assume that someone not bring a disruptive plague carryng child into a classroom of ADULTS trying to maybe learn or something. Good lord woman, when will you take your liberal godless heathen hippie ways elsewhere and just understand that we must all bend over backwards for the people who need special accomodation?

June 19, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Oh ha ha! I'm sure it's not at all funny to you while it's happening but it's pretty d*mn hilarious to read about.

June 20, 2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger Mamacita said...

I've got a student email that can beat your student email.

As for you and your blog. . . . now I know what it feels like to strike gold. Thank you.

I've had students who bring their visiting cousins, etc, to class with them. If there's room, I don't care, but I make them take the quiz along with everyone else.

A diet coke and a doughnut, yes. A bucket of KFC, no. Even if you offer to share. It happened.

July 04, 2006 8:10 PM  

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