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.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Your Advice, Please

I never know when to keep my mouth shut and when to say something. Either way, I usually end up kicking myself, so perhaps I need to start asking others for their advice.

Yesterday was the last day at the advising center. We have officially scheduled 3,700 incoming freshmen. Good news for us; bad news for Wednesday's students. Talk about beggars not being choosers. I was SO tempted to quote Caddyshack about half a dozen times: "You'll get nothing and like it."

I scheduled a young woman who was just adorable. She looked like someone famous, but I couldn't quite place which famous person she resembled. However, what she had in looks, she lacked in manners. She seemed polite enough, until I started actually registering her for classes and she whipped out her phone, turned away from me and started text messaging someone. Of course, every schedule was a chore yesterday - everything decent was closed, filled to overflowing. At one point, I said to young girl, "All of these psychology sections are closed," and she looked up from her text messaging and asked, "Oh. Is that bad?" I understand that classes don't close in high school and this concept is new, so I said, "Well, it just means we'll have to put you in another general education requirement." She looked at me. "Nothing before 11:00, okay?" and went back to text messaging. Interesting. Hasn't yet learned the concept of a closed class, but has grasped the concept of no classes before 11:00. I made the mistake of trying to talk to her, "I'll do my best - I promise, but you and this group of students here are the last 35 freshmen out of 3,700 to register. It's kind of slim pickings." She wasn't listening; she was text messaging. She sat next to me for approximately 15 minutes while I cruised through the university's massive database trying to find what might work out of the dregs. Every 5 minutes or so, she'd look up from her texting and say with a polite smile, "How's my schedule coming along?" What I wanted to do SO badly - so, so badly was say, "Please put down that phone and at least act like you're remotely interested in your educational future." But I said nothing.

Why? Because the woman who runs the advising program is big on customer service and enrollment. "Remember," she says every day, "They don't have to choose us. They might have been accepted by 5 other schools and if they have a bad experience with us, they can always go somewhere else." (Although based on most of the transcripts I've seen the past month, I doubt it.) Or sometimes her daily pep talk is, "No matter how awful they might act, we have to be polite. You're not just representing yourself; you're representing the entire university."

So her speeches ran through the back of my mind as I contemplated saying something to our pretty young thing. And then I thought, "This blows. I'm going to see her in my classroom in two or three years (if she doesn't flunk out which seems a distinct possibility, based on her transcript and her attention span; a gnat has a longer attention span - no offense to gnats) and I'm going to have to explain six times during the first class why she has to put her phone away - 'cause I know she ain't gonna read my "e-policy" on my syllabus.

After she went bouncing out of the advising center, I found myself wishing I had said something, but what? I just felt so, I can't exactly articulate it, maybe, disregarded? Inconsequential? Like the maid in the four-star hotel who people pretend not to see? Have I lost all sense of what decorum means in a "mobile" society? Are there new "rules?" Does it matter that she didn't stop text messaging once since I didn't truly need her to be engaged? After all, there was nothing she could really do - except to remind me about her not being a morning person. Was she being rude? Or am I just being overly sensitive and old, out of touch Teacher Lady? Your thoughts (honest ones), please!


Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

Oh, please, you are not out of touch! These kids today, says I, and I am not that much older than them!

No, there is no reason why this young little darling couldn't have paid attention to you while you HELPED HER. I don't know what good would have come from saying something, but someday, somewhere down the road, she's going to have to put down the blackberry and PAY ATTENTION. Or just sit and wait.

And I'm sorry, but I just hate your boss' attitude about "customer service". I've said it before and I'll say it again- school should not be considered a service (babysitting or otherwise)!! Nor is it a democracy. Bullshit!

July 27, 2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

No, you weren't being overly sensitive...she was definitely rude. I'm an assistant in an office and people will walk right past me as if I am not here. Hello? I am a real person.

Love your blog.

July 27, 2006 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Antique Mommy said...

I think it's very rude, but then again, I'm 46 and big on thank you notes.

I don't think it would have been inappropriate for you to have nicely asked her to put her device away in case you needed to interact with her about HER schedule. Doctors make you turn your cell phones off in their office, why shouldn't you? As you said, it denotes an attitude of disregard, which is rude, given your position at the university.

July 27, 2006 2:47 PM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...

I think your feelings are justified. Signing up for college classes is a huge thing and something that someone whose parents are paying thousands of dollars for should be highly interested in. It's too bad that the university is more interested in getting their money than providing them with life lessons, but I guess that's unfortunately how things seem to go these days.

Did you ask her if she had any ideas about what other kinds of classes she might want to take? Is there a book she could've looked at containing the general education choices available to her? It seems ridiculous that you should have had to make those decisions for her.

July 27, 2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

If you are "overly sensitive and old," then I am right there with you, passing the prune juice at Bingo night. Yesterday at the library where I work, some little teenaged bastard came to the reference desk to ask me a question and then answered his obnoxiously ringing cell phone and began a conversation with the person on the other end ("Hey. Wsup? Nah, I'm at the fuckin' library, man") WHILE I WAS SPEAKING TO HIM. I was in mid-sentence.


July 27, 2006 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

having recently aged out of that particular group, i too am finding myself more and more plagued by our young peoples' lack of manners in general. one of my pet peeves is people who aren't really paying attention and it seems as though any young person with a cell phone equals a recipe for annoyance. i think the bottom line is that YOU were helping her, not the other way around. she owes you courtesy for at least that much.

found you through

love your blog,

July 27, 2006 4:49 PM  
Anonymous drunkenspaniel said...

People get what they deserve. She will get hers.
It may take some time, but she'll get what's coming to her eventually.

July 27, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger maikaojai said...

I'm amazed that at your school, you have to sit and register students for their classes. At all of the schools I attended, it was the students' responsibility to choose classes and to come up with alternates in the case that the classes they wanted were closed (yes, back in my day...). Your student would sit up and pay attention to her schedule if she had to find open sections herself.

July 27, 2006 7:28 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Hi Maikaoai! We only do it for incoming freshman. The university at which I teach/work had a HUGE retention problem about a decade ago. Lots of research has been done on attrition/retention and this guy in particular has done gobs of research on the importance of academic advising and retention. Hence, the advisors tell incoming freshmen what they can and cannot take. It may appear that we're really being (overly?) helpful, but it all comes down to money.

July 27, 2006 9:18 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

I also believe your feelings of annoyance were justified. You're not crotchety--just human! I sometimes think that all these kids are so terribly rude because no one has ever called them on it, even gently. I had a long discussion with my 9 year old nephew yesterday about selfishness and how people will do what is immediately expedient for them without any thought about how it affects the greater society in which they live (although I probably used smaller words, lol) and at the end, he was nodding, "Yeah, I can see that. That makes sense." He has really great parents who are all over his butt to be a model citizen, but I still got the sense that no one had had that particular conversation with him before. And my point--I DO have one--is that maybe that girl was just totally clueless as to how rude she was being and needed a gentle reminder about manners. Or maybe not. :)

July 28, 2006 7:13 AM  
Blogger happychyck said...

The people at my local post office and credit union aren't taking it for granted that people--young and old--might have phone manners. They've posted signs saying that phones need to put away during transactions. Seems like a no brainer to me, but I guess not to everyone else.

July 28, 2006 11:04 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I'll admit that your posts on the advisory center make me cringe. Ten years ago I was a freshman enrolling in classes for the first time in an advisory center and I have absolutely no memory of the person who helped me or how long the process took. I was six years away from owning my first cell phone, so I'm sure I wasn't text messaging at the time, but your stories make me wonder.

Are all the freshman like that? Or do you just write about the rude ones?

I wonder if we weren't all self-important eighteen-year-olds who only realized how small and insignificant our place in the world is once we'd been out in it.

Anyway, to your questions. I don't think you should take it personally. Your posts give me the idea that these students are like that with everyone. But she was being rude. And unappreciative. In your position, I'd probably have a standard spiel for each incoming freshman before you register them. "Hi. I'm Teacher Lady. I'm going to be helping you register for your classes. Please put your cellphone away. Yada yada yada."

You do show an amazing amount of self-restraint with these people. I give you a lot of credit for that.

July 29, 2006 12:10 PM  
Blogger Fraulein N said...

She was being fucking RUDE. I can understand that you're in customer service blah blah blah, but there are polite ways to tell someone she's being a rude and behaving inappropriately.

(Although I'm sure you would have preferred to grab her phone and beat her with it.)

July 29, 2006 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Fiona said...

I think she was horribly rude, and I'm sorry you're not in a position to say so.

You could, though, say gently that, "Our policy is that students should not be using cell phones while registering. We'd love to have you go along with the policy, so we can be of the utmost service."

"Our policy" is a good cover for not saying the truth, which is that she was behaving like an oblivious moron.

July 30, 2006 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do hope that you signed her up for the classes with the "worst" professors and the highest difficulty level. Since she obvoiously didn't care what classes she was goingt to take, you shouldn't have cared whether she was a put in a possition to pass or not.

July 31, 2006 1:31 PM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

Yeah, she was definitely rude. I'm with Antique Mommy, though, I like thank you notes and RSVP is sacred, man.

July 31, 2006 10:31 PM  
Blogger hifromrose said...

As a teen myself, I still think that texting during a such important event is unreasonable. However, you should know that teens, usually ones that are entering a completely new situation feel the need of moral support from their friends. Although If this person was a mature young lady she would have waited until after the meeting to texted/called her friends/family.

August 11, 2006 12:49 PM  

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