Rudeness Won’t Get You Far In Life, Business or School

by admin on March 31, 2011

I am in a nursing program at a community college in a small rural town. This is the first semester for those in my class, and so far the experience has been wonderful; my classmates on the whole are respectful and helpful, and I feel like this is a great group of people to go to clinicals with in the fall. There is, of course, one exception, and though she has been mildly rude in the past, nothing prepared me for the events in class this week.

This is a nutrition class, with a teacher who is particularly enthusiastic. She has never previously wavered from the subject, and she provides only concrete, helpful anecdotes to demonstrate real-world application of the material. On this particular day, however, she had just gotten home from what must have been a life-changing journey. Her daughter is in the armed services, and she spent two weeks visiting on the naval craft where the daughter is stationed, sailing around the Pacific Ocean and seeing how the personnel live out there. She was filled with enthusiasm, and what started out as telling us about the diet of the thousands of people on board the vessel quickly became story-telling time. The class as a whole was fascinated, there were many questions, and she was more than willing to answer them.

About fifteen minutes into the class, a particular young woman raised her hand and was called upon, and promptly said with a great amount of biting sarcasm, “Can you go ahead and take attendance, and then talk about your personal life for ten or fifteen more minutes? Because this has nothing to do with my education.”

Shock reverberated through the classroom, but the teacher gracefully apologized, went to the podium, and took attendance. She picked up her lecture notes, and started talking about the subject of the day. By this time, the young woman in question had collected her things and left. Another person raised her hand and apologized for the rudeness of the departed student, and the classroom was filled with murmurs of agreement. Our teacher only smiled and shrugged, and said, “If that’s the worst thing that happens in my life, it’s a pretty good life!” Someone else asked another question about her trip, and she spoke a little more about the experience before settling into lecture.

Despite the rudeness, I feel for the young woman. It’s a small class, and none of us are going to forget. She was right on some level to expect that class time would be about the material, but oh so wrong in her expression. My first thought after was that I would NOT want to be paired up with her for clinicals, and I imagine I wasn’t the only one. I quieted myself by remembering that no one is perfect, and I don’t want to be a person who holds that imperfection against someone. If I am working with her, I hope to have as much grace as our teacher did as the recipient of the rudeness.   0330-11

The manner in which the young student expressed herself was truly rude and disrespectful.   However, I do believe it would have been fine for her or any other student to have said something to gently prod the instructor to get back on course with teaching the material for the day.   The operative word in that sentence is “gently”.    A classroom is  like a board room with the students being the subordinates and the teacher being the CEO who determines how his/her “business” should be run.   Good CEOs allow input from their subordinates whose suggestions are meant to benefit the good of the entire company, not just oneself.   So, the appropriate comment  would have been, “I know I and others have been enjoying this fascinating topic of discussion.  Is there a time later after class or a lunch period that we could meet to hear more about your very interesting travels? I would be interested to do that if you are.”   This sends the teacher the subtle message that it is time to move on to teaching and allows her a graceful exit to save face while clearly communicating a respect for her, others and their interest in her travel tales.   And the classmates would be silently admiring the gracious student as someone they would definitely want to work with both in class and later in a professional capacity.

And as an addendum, this story is a good example of why some people are never successful in life.  They wonder why business networking does not work for them, why they get passed over for promotions, why they seem stuck at a certain pay grade, why the best job assignments go to others, why they are stricken from guest lists for social events, etc.  Actions can have consequences not just for one’s social life but overall success in a career and business.

{ 93 comments… read them below or add one }

karmabottle March 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm

This anecdote illustrates EXACTLY why I prefer online classes: I don’t have to listen to either ramblings which disinterest me OR rude-azz students who think they know more than the prof!

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karmabottle March 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm

In all seriousness though, I want to express a thought.

Professors do not work for students. Professors work for the university or institution. You did not hire, nor do you pay the professor. You do not have a contract with the professor. The attitude that a professor works for you because you pay tuition to a college is a serious error in thinking, to my mind.

If you have a beef with a professor’s style, the proper channel is through that department. It is not appropriate to reprove the professor. That role belongs to someone else.

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karmabottle March 31, 2011 at 5:28 pm

@Annalyn,

I understand your point about keeping the lessons valuable, but I do want to point something out about your response. A major theme in your post is how overloaded a student can be: job, family, commute, homework, multiple classes, etc.

My only disagreement with your theme is that it is really not a professor’s responsibility to take into account what all a student may have on his or her personal plate. Those issues and problems belong to the student. If a student is overloaded and short on patience as a result, that’s her own issue to sort out. The way a class lecture is spent, or how a professor manages his class has nothing to do with that student’s private obligations or troubles.

Sure it may frustrate a student whose mind is on a hundred other things, but at the end of the day, that’s something that a student needs to address in his or her own life.
I say this as a person who is knee deep in my doctoral program. If anyone understands the value of an hour, I surely do. You are right that all the things I must do (40+ hours a week at work, dinner for the family, weekend obligations, commutes, sick child or spouse, and other sundry responsibilities) do complicate my academic life, but in truth, that’s not a professor’s problem–that’s mine.

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TheSquirrel March 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

@Annalyn

I also had a fulltime job (with the most difficult manager I’ve ever had. Ever.) plus four-hour long night classes. I initially read the student’s reaction as frustration. The OP might have a good opinion of this lecturer, but maybe Rude Student didn’t see it that way. Maybe this teacher constantly used lecture time to socialize with her favorites. I know a few of my instructors did and by the time those last months of the program rolled around I wasn’t the most pleasant person to deal with.

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RMMuir March 31, 2011 at 5:59 pm

@Chocobo – Thanks! In my university, there’s a distinction between professors and lecturers. I think that most of the lecturers have (at the least) a PhD though. The Professor would be in charge of the department I think? (Haha, no even sure of how my own uni works!) I’m a medical student, so pretty much all of my lecturers are clinical doctors who are do maybe just a few lectures (cause all doctors should be able to teach), not all of them would be researchers, but medicine is more of a vocational degree I guess.

My dad’s a lecturer in teacher training, so he worked as a teacher and then sort of side-stepped into training of others. He doesn’t have a PhD or anything and his Masters kind of fell by the wayside!

I think there is a definite difference in how people treat teachers/lecturers and even just how younger people treat adults here in the UK, and to be honest, it’s probably a bad rather than a good difference. However, I think there does need to be a culture where one can speak up and argue a point with a lecture, or even tell them that they’re wrong or inappropriate. A culture where higher-ups are never questioned is one which leads to mistakes (I just had a lecture on this in cognitive psychology). That’s easier said than done if you’re the more junior person (in age or status). I think I’m arguing off topic from what you were though. We both agree that the way that the young woman did act really rudely. Asking a leading question would have definitely been a better way to deal with it.

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Dear! March 31, 2011 at 6:13 pm

It is clear that this girl only wanted to be marked ‘present’ to avoid failing due to absences since she left early. If I were the professor I would have marked her absent for her rudeness and boldly skipping out on class.

I will admit, in college I wasn’t always so intrigued by my actual school work. The most interesting and educational stories were often those that veered off topic most off the time, and I have ditched a class or two when the lights went out for a movie or went to the backroom and never came back. Although I would sneak out, I usually did it in a manner that did not disrupt anymore and usually did it when I would not be missed. I will also admit that I dozed off in class a time or two freshman year, which I admit was very rude. Silly-dumb-18 year old me, wasting hundreds of dollars on each class time to nap and sneak out….

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Dear! March 31, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Also, @ Just Laura- I understand that college is expensive, and I agree you should get what you pay for, but a lot of the college experience doesn’t come from just books, facts and figures. The professor’s experience could have been more educational and thought provoking than her lecture, and it does state she usually stayed on topic. After four years of college, I remember concepts, ideas, people, experiences etc. and the professor did have a captive and intrigued audience who had a genuine interest in what she had to say.

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LilyG March 31, 2011 at 7:28 pm

As a nurse, a student and part time clinical nursing instructor, I can assure you that student will not be taking care of any of you in the future. If she would be that rude to an instructor, she will do it again and most likely lose a place in the program.
If someone gently brings her egregiousness to her attention AND she takes it to heart, she may stay. Otherwise, I find people don’t change much.
Long ago, I had a group of 8 students who performed so poorly on a written assignment I scrapped the papers and gave them the chance to do it over. Two of them called each member of the class into a patient room during clinicals and extorted support to refuse the do-over. The two ringleaders figured I would cancel the grade and strike the paper from the gradebook.
I told them it was certainly their choice, but I would grade either the first paper or the do-over, whichever they cared to hand in.
Those two failed the class (unrelated to the paper) and the other 6 handed a second one in. In fact, one of the two failed out of nursing school and the other graduated but failed the NCLEX 3 times and can’t take it again. (NCLEX is the big certifying exam after graduating)

Time wounds all heels…

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Rebecca March 31, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Instructors who constantly ramble off-topic: not so great. However, the OP states that this lecturer usually stayed on topic and she did start out on the topic of nutrition (aboard the vessel).

I absolutely would have marked this student absent if I were the prof.

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Alyssa March 31, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Its pretty obvious to me that the rude student just wanted to skip out on the class. We have tonnes of people who do that, they come for attendance and then leave straight after. I don’t really understand the point, because they often miss important stuff.

I have lecturers like the OP as well. They give fantastic lectures, but occasionally use personal anecdotes. Case in point, I had a child language unit. The lecturer was fantastic and stayed on topic 99% of the time but occasionally she used to show us videos of her children, demonstrating what she was teaching us (e.g. developing literacy skills). I could easily have been pissed off but I found them to helpful, especially when it came to exam time – I would think of something and then be like ‘Oh yeah, I remember that video that Ms. Teacher showed us of her kid doing XYZ’.

In my opinion, the lecturer is not at all fault. The rude one is the awful girl who spoke with such disgusting manner and then proceeded to skip the class anyway.

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Chocobo March 31, 2011 at 9:50 pm

@RMMuir: Ah, okay, thanks for the explanation. Interesting differences in the use of terminology. Here the head of the department would either be the Department Head, or possibly the Chair, but would still be referred to as Professor like the rest of the faculty. I think here you can have people give lectures who are not doctors, but they are not really employees of the University. I think it depends on the university’s policies. In a seminar I probably would be less likely to say Professor and call the person by name since it’s not as much of a teaching classroom setting or graded coursework, but rather a lecture series. That makes a bit of a difference. I never went to medical school, so I’m not sure what the professors would be referred to there. I think it also makes a big difference being a graduate-level student vs. an undergraduate. Graduate students are “higher up”, so to speak, on the hierarchy chain, so it affords them a much closer relationship with the faculty. My husband is in grad school and he is on a first name basis with his professors. But still, he would be totally mortified if someone spoke that way in a classroom.

That’s not to say that theories and paradigms shouldn’t be challenged — the classroom should encourage critical thinking, not absorption at face value. Sadly there was just a study that came out saying most university undergraduate students exit college with no tangible increase in their critical thinking skills. There are respectful ways questioning that still show respect for the professor and other classmates. Phrasing it as “But what about….” vs. “You’re wrong!” (and I’ve heard both) makes a huge difference.

Either way, good on your dad for having such a great job! My mother is also an educator and as such I tend to have strong opinions about it. Respectful ones, I hope.

@karmabottle: That’s exactly how I feel. The professor’s job is maintained by the university — they are not private tutors that you personally pay. Many of them also have important roles as researchers. You, as the student, pay for receiving an education from that university, NOT the individual professor. If it worked that way we’d all be hiring personal tutors to receive our bachelor’s.
And anyway, it’s a false impression that students pay professors: much of the tuition costs go to support administration and general functioning of the school. Many professors are largely supported (in part, if not sometimes in full) by grants, donor endowments, and other outside sources that do not come from tuition costs.

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sally March 31, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I would say that it is good advice to never in any way question a professor’s teaching style or subject matter publically and during class time, especially if it is not an offensive subject or a chronic problem. The truth is, almost everything, including travel, is a learning experience, and as a student one is supposed to be open and willing to absorb almost any and all knowledge.
A professor can help (or hinder) you throughout your entire college career and possibly beyond. Therefore IMO it is both rude and foolish to jeopardize that relationship in any way.

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Levedi April 1, 2011 at 4:09 am

Wow. I have to strongly disagree with the posters who think the teacher was out of line. I’m a professor myself and I’ve seen how the growth of the “You work for me and I don’t want anything from you that I don’t deem relevant” attitude has really hampered students’ intellectual growth. We professors actually do know what we’re doing in the classroom, even when we allow the class to veer in a direction an individual student might not like.

First of all, rapport with students is vitally important to a good learning environment. By briefly sharing her own personal life with the students in a way that did interest them (she only got off topic because they were asking her questions, remember?) she was building rapport that creates safe space for admitting ignorance / asking the vulnerable questions / exploring difficult topics. Students learn more and better in classrooms like this, so the professor wasn’t actually compromising her classroom’s purpose.

Second, different styles / modes of teaching are important to allow students with different learning styles to succeed. What drove one girl nuts might have been the best day of some other student’s semester. It can’t always be about you. Good professors address the whole class and that means shifting styles and attention and topic.

Finally, human compassion and rapport is especially important in cohort learning environments like nursing programs where students will be together long term. It’s doubly important when students are training for professions like nursing where the ability to slow down, listen for individual personal signals and take personal details seriously can literally save lives. I know – an OR nurse once saved me from going under the knife without proper anesthetic. The surgeon was only interested in me as a body on a table. The OR nurse looked at my eyes and realized that though I was immobilized, I was still fully awake. Now, out of that class of future nurses, which student do you want assisting at your surgery? The one who saw her professor as a human being or the one who saw her professor as nothing more than an information machine?

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Maryann April 1, 2011 at 5:53 am

Some of the hardest people to be around are those who say *exactly* what they think when they think it. I understand the girl thinking what she said, maybe even saying it to friends after class, but most people have to temper their basest thoughts in the moment. It’s a vital ability for a social world.

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Maryann April 1, 2011 at 6:17 am

@karmabottle

True, but that’s somewhat tempered by the fact that a professor is being paid, often indirectly by the students’ tuition, to teach a specific subject. A student’s extracurricular stresses may not be their professor’s problem, but if that is true then it is equally true that a professor’s extracurricular activities are not their student’s subject, and if they choose to expound on those activities to the detriment of the students learning the subject, then the professor is failing to do their job, and on the student’s time and often dime. A professor who does that is making him- or herself one of the student’s problems.

I’m not upholding this student’s rudeness. I just hope no one would excuse, even in part, any professor who prioritizes having a captive audience for discussions of their personal affairs over their students’ time and academic obligations. I can’t imagine anything more unprofessional. The students and the subject being taught to them must always be the professor’s first professional priorities. That includes using the students’ time judiciously.

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RMMuir April 1, 2011 at 6:32 am

@Chocobo WE’re divided by a common language. Another interesting point to note about how medical school works in the UK is that you don’t need to be post grad to get in. I went straight to medical school from school at the age of 18. There is an opportunity to “crash” an honours degree in a year though. I’m studying for a BMSc (Hons) in Medical Psychology (hopefully graduating in June!), and then I’ll complete my final 2 years of medical school, so I guess I’ll be a graduate next year!

I don’t think that at least in my medical school there’s a huge amount of debate/critical thinking encouraged. We’re spoon fed a huge amount of information and then we go away and learn it. In fact, our lectures are one of the few things that aren’t compulsory, and people who learn better from reading (for example) often don’t go. (Especially when most of the people lecturing us have never had any training in how to lecture, some don’t cope as well as others! I remember one who literally gave us exactly the same lecture 6 weeks apart, and it really wasn’t that good the first time.) All the powerpoints are uploaded to the interwebs though, so we can always use them as a springboard for learning. I’ve really enjoyed my time in the psychology dept, as I’ve really been encouraged to think more critically, which is really what they want us to gain from a BMSc year.

As for first-name basis, I would never assume to call one of my lecturers. I was brought up to never call an adult by their first name, and don’t normally even if they invite me to (I try to avoid situations where I would need to address to them by name, or use their full name. For example, some of my lecturers go to my church, and whilst everyone else is calling them Jim, I’d still call them Dr Bob, or even Jim Bob). I’m still only a youngster, I think it is disrespectful for me to assume equality with someone older.

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Maryann April 1, 2011 at 6:41 am

@Chocobo:

I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood, but I think you’re describing professors who may freely choose not to concern themselves chiefly with classroom obligations. Am I wrong? I don’t personally see the value of a teaching professor who makes that choice.

I can’t think highly of anyone who chooses to shirk a primary part of their profession simply because it’s not the most interesting element of it to them. You’re almost describing people who are little more than titled volunteers, but even volunteers have to perform the function for which they’ve signed up. Since you assert that students pay the university, not the professors, I’d assert that any university that is not providing professors who are adequately involved in the courses they teach is not a university worth the tuition. It is the university’s obligation to attract the most useful professors for their students.

A professor who’s living off of resources outside the university and who’s choosing to focus on matters outside the university, no matter how respected they may be in their field, maybe shouldn’t be teaching, to the varying degrees they may or may not be teaching, the university students. Just saying.

Again, not at all upholding the student’s rudeness, and obviously a single lapse is human. That doesn’t mean the student didn’t have a valid point for consideration; she did.

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DGS April 1, 2011 at 6:45 am

Levedi, great job at succinctly and eloquently summarizing an excellent point about building rapport, creating a stimulating intellectual environment and teaching!

I also would like to add that it is ludicrous to expect that a professor needs to account or somehow, make an allowance for a student who has a full-time job, extensive travel time, a child, etc. First of all, regarding attendance, I do not take attendance in my course as I believe that adults should be accountable for their own education but I do share material in lectures that will be on the exam, that relates to the course material and that is not covered in the book. If a student has other commitments that preclude him or her from being present in class, that is that student’s choice (or he or she can take an online class), but my assumption as an educator is that if you have signed up for a class, you have made a commitment to take full advantage of it, including attending it. If you are interested in getting a degree, you have to commit to the time and effort that it takes to get one; you don’t just get one dispensed from a machine by putting some money in the slot. You have to earn it (I earned all four of mine, including my Ph.D. and had plenty of other responsibilities while attending university and graduate school, but somehow managed to make my education a priority).

I have had students that chose not to attend class, that missed the material covered in lecture that wasn’t in the book and that did not do as well in the class as the students who were present in the class. It’s the natural order of things – you get out what you put in, so if you put in 15%, don’t expect to get 100% back. And what I have discovered in more than 10 years of teaching is that the students who have multiple other commitments, including long travel time and family, are usually the ones that do the best, as they know how to prioritize, focus and work hard, and they are extremely committed to their education. It’s the ones who whine and complain the loudest about “not having time for class” that are absent the most and that do the worst because they expect to get the grade based on entitlement alone. Life in the classroom, in the workplace, etc. doesn’t work that way. You don’t get an “”A” for a “C-” level effort.

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Caros April 1, 2011 at 6:46 am

A lot of people here are being very quick to jump on the student but:

If she hadn’t interrupted, just how long was said tutor likely to have spent discussing this subject, however interesting, which was not actually part of the class requirements (if I’ve read that correctly). She’d already spent 15 minutes – a reasonable chunk of the time available if it’s only a one hour class.

So, she registered & left, perhaps she was assuming that the tutor was going to continue her talk rather than move on to the class material?

If the student had turned up 15 minutes late, would she have received punishment/admonishment of some sort? In any classes I’ve been part of, if a student turned up so late they were politely asked to leave straight away. The tutor is effectively at least 15 minutes late arriving to the class proper (already) by undertaking the discussion she did.

For the classes I’ve attended at university, the rule was, if the tutor hadn’t arrived by 15 minutes from the official start of the class, the class was effectively cancelled. Sometimes we were supplied with an apology before the 15 minutes was up, sometimes we weren’t. The tutor here was pretty much doing the same, however interesting & however nice she was, she wasn’t properly present at the class for at least 15 minutes.

One class I had was a 3 hour practical session for my chemistry degree. The practicals we had to undertake took the entire 3 hours to complete, no buffer time available. The tutor who took us for these sessions would routinely turn up late and be chivvying us to finish off so he could leave half an hour before the end of the 3 hours. After a couple of sessions like this we ended up complaining about his behaviour & he never turned up late again. We’d fulfilled our part of the studying agreement by turning up on time (as had the student in the OP’s story), the tutor had not. By being late he was preventing us from carrying out & completing what we were there to do. As was the tutor in the OP’s story. They had a class of X time to learn about Y, the tutor was talking about Z.

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Caros April 1, 2011 at 7:07 am

And… if it was that interesting/momentous a trip, surely it would have been worth the tutor arranging a special session at a different time open to anyone who was interested in hearing about it rather than hijacking a class. I’ve attended plenty of those during my university days. You know you can focus on that area and enjoy it properly for what/the subject it is, not having to worry about what you should be doing instead during the class.

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wolfgirl April 1, 2011 at 7:42 am

One thing I’d add is my scepticism over how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT the students time is that she can’t spare 15 minutes to listen to an interesting and likely partially relevant story. Is it likely that the 15 mins in question is the only time her learning has been interrupted throughout the course of the semester or year? Or is it in fact perfectly likely (or very very likely depening on the student!) that only the week before she may of turned up late, came in tired and hungover from partying, or even skipped class totally (like she in fact did here)? Has she geniuiniely never wasted learning opportunities herself? seems highly unlikely, given the average student, in which case her comments were not only rude but also a load of cow poo; “But I want to learn NOW!!” really? what about when you fell asleep in lecuture last week? My point is she should allow teacher some slack, to conteract the slack she has almost certianly received. Even if she’s a model student who never parties, no-one has a perfect attention span and takes in everything they are told by their lectureres, so she just needs to chill out and concentrete on making sure she learns what she needs to off her own back, rather than blaming others instantly!

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Izzy April 1, 2011 at 8:01 am

lol! when I was a nursing student, the (relevant) anecdotes were the BEST bit! Real world application to the drab data being crammed into our minds, how refreshing!
seriously tho if the worst thing this student’s had to put up with is an excited lecturer going off topic ONCE I think you have an awesome college. During my years there were some subjects so bad only about 30ish students showed up out of 500 to the lectures, the rest just stayed at home and downloaded the lecture notes and self-studied, and you can bet your bottom dollar we gave honest end-of-semester feedback

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boxy April 1, 2011 at 8:20 am

Levedi – nicely done. I’m one of those students who learns differently than others. Hands on, practical application, anecdotes – all work better for me than straight out of the text teaching.

RMMuir – I’m with you a hundred percent with being respectful to our elders. It makes me cringe to see the disrespectful attitude of kids and young adults towards those who are older.

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Lizajane April 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

There is more to an education than receiving technical information.

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AS April 1, 2011 at 10:04 am

@Levedi, very nicely put. I am a graduate student, and I used to build an invisible wall around me when I TAd a class, for the fear that students might think bad of me otherwise. But then I realised (seeing other teachers who have taught me, and the end of semester feedbacks from students) that some personal rapport is a good thing. Students thought I was too distant, and they could not relate to me to be comfortable enough in the class. I didn’t teach for a while after that because I got an RA position, but I plan to dissolve the wall a bit the next time I teach. The teacher in OP’s story never seemed to have gone into tangents except this one time, and she seems to be one of the teachers I’d have liked to have.

@Annalyn – I can feel your frustration towards your teacher. But from OP’s story, this instructor does not seem to be the one who spends her time with personal stories unless it is relevant. She is different from the awful self-centered teachers who don’t realize that students are often making a lot of sacrifices to be in that class. I have had some such awful ones, and I know how it feels. I think I’d be a little more kind the OP’s teacher. She is a human after all, and she just had a life changing experience. Also, it seems she was not just narrating her vacation, but actually started talking about the diet of the people onboard the ship, which is probably relevant to a nutrition course (OP, please clarify).

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John April 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

I respectfully disagree with the boardroom analogy. A teacher-student relationship is that of a customer and service provider. The class as a whole was not getting what they had paid for, and one student rudely called the teacher on it. I agree that it could have been handled better. I also have to question why the student left after the class got back on track. That makes no sense to me.

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LMVattimo April 1, 2011 at 11:09 am

When I read this story I couldn’t shake the feeling of Deja Vu. My fiancee is in a class with a professor who consistently inserts her personal life into class, usually in a failed attempt to relate it to the class. He was so fed up last session that he walked out.

The student was definitely wrong. If she has an issue with the professor a confidential, carefully worded email or personal talk would be much more in order. Being sarcastic in the middle of class will get you nowhere fast. Or better yet, in evaluations mention that the personal notes were not as much related to the class as he/she thought they were.

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Elle April 1, 2011 at 11:13 am

“I’m with you a hundred percent with being respectful to our elders. It makes me cringe to see the disrespectful attitude of kids and young adults towards those who are older.”

Bullpocky! I’m not going to extra-respect someone just because they’ve logged more hours in life than me. If they want more than just the everyday politeness I extend to everyone then they have to earn it with the way they act and treat others. Same with teachers/ inxtructors/ professors. I do value their knowledge and expertise (it’s why I want to take the class), but they don’t get more respect just because they’re at the front of the room.

I wonder if this could be the result of a difference in perception. One student’s “She teaches with anecdotes” is another’s “she’s telling irrelevent stories again.” Hence one person’s “fascinating but rare diveregence from topic” is another’s “Yeaaarrgghhh! Straw that broke the camel’s back!”

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Kay April 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I agree with Levedi, boxy, and RMMuir!!! Well said!!

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Chocobo April 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm

@Elle: a wise teacher once said to me:

“Respect is earned, but courtesy is expected.”

I don’t think that boxy was trying to say that we should be extra-respectful… just respectful at all, a lost art for many people. Personally I feel that someone’s life experience is an invaluable and irreplaceable resource that IS earned, and it’s a shame that Western culture has increasingly ignored the value and wisdom of age. Many of us, including myself, reach for books written by experts to solve our life problems before we even think of talking to our grandparents about how they dealt with it. I do agree with you that people who do not live up to the standards of someone deserving of respect does not have any right to it. Everyone has the right to courtesy, however.

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Dannysgirl April 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm

To all the posters complaining about attendance policies: I think part of the reason for enforcing attendance is that in the working world, you are expected to show up *every* day. (Barring illness, family emergency, etc.) Rigbt now, our technology is not advanced enough to allow a firefighter to put out a fire from his own home, or a police officer to make an arrest from her sofa. Last time I checked, a job actually requires your presence.
As far as the actual classes are concerned: Sure, maybe you can borrow lecture notes from a classmate, and pass the class without showing up 100% of the time. However, can you really look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of the effort you put forth to pass? Would you allow your children
to behave like this? Quite frankly, I am tired of the attitude that it’s okay to do as little as possible and still expect to reap the full benefits.

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LovleAnjel April 1, 2011 at 4:25 pm

@Maryann

“I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood, but I think you’re describing professors who may freely choose not to concern themselves chiefly with classroom obligations. Am I wrong? I don’t personally see the value of a teaching professor who makes that choice.”

At all US Universities, professors are expected to both teach and do research. Most are supported by their research grants rather than their salaries. In R01 teaching Universities (example: the University of Chicago), they are expected to fund themselves. About 40 – 60% of their grant money goes to the University to pay for overhead. If an untenured faculty member cannot sustain themselves with grants (and thus can’t “pay” the University), they will not receive tenure (effectively, they are fired). Like it or not, the way the US system works is that science faculty have to shirk teaching for research or find themselves out on the streets. This is probably not effective for teaching, but if one prof can bring the University $500,000 in overhead through NSF or NIH funding every year, that dwarfs the tuition students paid for the class that person taught during that time.

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Melissa April 2, 2011 at 12:11 am

Annalyn – I teach at a four year institution and I have an attendance policy. At my university, if a lot of students fail your class, you are put on a “high-risk course” list. When that happens, you get called into your chair’s office and asked by him/her (and possibly the dean) what YOU can do to make more students pass. Asking them to give you students who care more about their grades/whether or not they pass is not an acceptable answer. Students failing is seen as a professor problem, not a student problem. This does not have to be a high percentage of the class, just that more fail your section of course than those of other professors. As I am not tenured, this could very well cause my contract to not be renewed. A few professors drop the requirements so low anyone can pass to make themselves look effective. Some students think they can read the textbook, memorize a few definitions and pass the class. I consider the textbook to be the background information that they should read in order to be able to learn from my lectures. Unfortunately, so many have better things to do than come to class. Then, when they fail, they blast the professor for being “too hard” or “not understanding of their xyz personal situation.” I actually had a student tell me once that she’d paid her money for this class so she deserved to pass, even though she’d attended perhaps a third of all the class sessions and made “F” to low “D” grades on all the exams. My fear is that the “professor is employed by the students” idea leads to that sort of thinking. Since I instituted an attendance policy, more of my students pass and I haven’t relaxed my standards. Certainly, there are drawbacks to insisting that students who don’t want to be there attend, but they’re likely to learn something, even if I believe at times it is completely accidental.

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Eisa April 2, 2011 at 12:31 am

Personally, I like when professors go off on some tangents and anecdotes. Not when it takes up the entire class, but, like my Linguistics professor now will go off on language-related tangents and I think they’re fascinating. If this prof started out with something very much related to class and only veered off topic due to questions, then what is wrong with that? That student was rude, rude, rude. And in all my classes where attendance has been taken…you have had to stay for all, or at least the majority of the class [i.e. a little bit late, or having to leave a little bit early would be fine]. Leaving like that? I would have marked her absent.

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karmabottle April 2, 2011 at 9:01 am

I’m so glad to see that there are other posters who find the “student pays the prof’s salary” to be an egregious and ridiculous stance. That thought process is why so many students fail to succeed at the university level.

At the end of the day there are good profs, less effective profs, and occasional poor ones. In my many years of study, I’ve had more great ones than not. I’ve had my fair share of good ones, and a handful of poor ones.

The one thing people fail to realize is that no experience in life guarantees you a perfect run. No program of study is staffed with 100% flawless profs. No job or career has 100% perfect bosses. No neighborhood or church is made of 100% righteous members. It would be naive to expect it otherwise.

The other thing people fail to realize is that what is ideal for one student is a nightmare for others. If you could survey all the students in a class, some would love the prof, some would hate him, and others really wouldn’t care either way.

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LilyG April 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm

@Levedi- brilliant post and very well written! I don’t know where the idea that professors/teachers are mere service providers and students are our customers needing to pleased comes from. We are imparting our collective wisdom and experience to a pupil. We guide them through the learning experience and encourage them to better understand how they learn. Our legacy lasts far past the end of the class.

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Enna April 3, 2011 at 9:41 am

Taking attendence is important for fire saftey purposes so should be done at the start of the lesson and if a student leaves then it needs to be marked down. Professers do have a role in teaching students so they work for the students, especially if the students are paying or the sponser if it is a scholarship as well as the collegeue.

Going off topic for 15/20mins is not on, such discussions should be done at the end of the lecture so those people who have other commitments afterwards can leave.

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Enna April 4, 2011 at 5:57 am

@ Levedi : generatig rapport with students is fine – what is not fine is when a teacher or lecturer constantly goes of topic which is what I’ve expiernced at school or when I was doing my A Levels one of my teahers would turn up 20 mins late constantly. That is not on. Many people are more critical of the student who left.

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Chocobo April 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

@Enna: Just because professors teach doesn’t necessarily mean that they work for the students. That would be like saying that a public school teacher in grade school works for their children simply because their job is to teach them. That’s not right at all — the teacher works for the state and the school, they aren’t personal nannies and tutors. In my opinion it is the same thing for professors. They work for the University, not the student. Regardless, as a poster said above, at least in the U.S. professors are not paid through tuition fees, but rather through grants and other outside funding that has nothing to do with scholarships or students.

I don’t think anyone is indicating that professors can do whatever they want — no, that it what university guidelines are for, and there are avenues for students to go about lodging legitimate complaints (like constantly swaying off topic, or always showing up late). But the point is that the professors are beholden to *university* standards, not to the personal whims of their students, like service workers.

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Enna April 5, 2011 at 5:59 am

@ Chocoboo, I see where you’ve come from – teachers work for the state I agree, but their job is to teach me when I was at school. At A Levels I have chosen to stay on at school so I could go to uni. What wasn’t on was that the teacher who was turning up 20mins late for each lesson had the audacity to say I could’ve got an “A” when I had worked my hardest: I had got a “B” which I’m happy with. I felt like saying “you turn up late all the time maybe I could’ve got an “A” if I had the right teaching support.” The irnoic thing is the teacher who was constatnly 20 mins late didn’t get promoted. My sister was taught by the same teacher a couple of years later and he was very critical of the teacher who had got promoted, but he was also very critcal of the school in general – so had hampered his own chances of getting promoted. He left in the end.

At univeristy I have a governemt loan which I’m paying back (I live in the UK) so if a lectuerer is bad they are wasiting taxpayer’s money as well as my money. Rapport is fine I have to say I was lucky at university not to have a time wasting lectuerer. Altough I did have one who was acaemically qualified but he could not lecutre at all. The univeristy has a reputation of a certian level of academic teaching quality to maintain. As a result when it came to his student evaulation he didn’t score too well. The module he taught he shared with another lectuerer – it was pretty clear which questions we would revise for and choose for our essays: the second lectuerer as we could understand and follow what he was saying as his lectures were better organised and put together.

In this case, the student was the rudest person and it’s clear she hasn’t got her priorties straight. It would be different if she just asked a question to get back on track rather then walk out. If I had been the lectuerer in that class I would have kicked off that module: or at the least given a firm warning. It’s one thing giving a tactful polite hint. Like I’ve mentioned before I wouldn’t want to work with this rude student as it is clear she is unreliable, lazy and if she skips classes she’s not going to have a clue about what to do. She is unlikely to qualify as a nurse with such a bad attitude to learning.

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Enna April 5, 2011 at 6:03 am

During GCSE’s one teacher skipped a whole topic which effected the entire classes chances in the exam. He tried to pass it off that we had covered it but we didn’t. I was lucky to get a C in the subject so I could carry it on at A Level and eventually university. The GCSE teacher was a good teacher in what he had taught but missing out an entire topic meant that I along with my classmates suffered which isn’t fair when you are talking about people’s education and futures. Luckily I am a hard worker.

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Kai April 14, 2011 at 9:44 am

What I would ask of all the people who think that a teachers/lecturers/professors are ‘paid’ by the students, is if that is the case, why are you not making sure you get your money’s worth by working hard and attending class?

I think the student in this story was rude; not only in what she said, but in walking out. I think it was appropriate to ask to get the class back on track, but how it was handled was incredibly rude.

While I agree with some of the posters here regarding a teachers rapport with a student, I do question whether these teachers do go off topic more than they should. I’ve had plenty of teachers who go off on a tangent and waste an hour of class time and then try to link it to the class topic when it clearly was just an excuse to exercise the teachers vocal chords. It also comes down to perception. The OP here clearly admires this professor, so in her view, the professor is not a time waster. But maybe from someone else’s perception, she goes off topic regularly.

It sounds like the teacher had a valid reason for bringing the subject up, but after a while clearly it had gone into something else and the teacher really should have arranged for interested students to discuss it with her after class. Can’t blame her for being excited, and a happy teacher is better than a miserable one, but yes she shouldn’t let it go overboard. Either way, an incredibly stupid and rude way for the student to handle the situation.

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MOL (meow out loud) June 21, 2011 at 3:15 am

Okay so 10-15 mins of a story the rude interupted CHILD because a young woman with the right upbringing should know better than to be so rude was so out of line on ONE day that she walked out of the class? Come on that child hoped to leave and couldn’t because the teacher delayed taking attendance. She probably hoped to get out of class but wanted to be counted as there. It’s not like the teacher was telling the story over days or weeks.

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