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 }

Danielle March 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

I would have just a LITTLE (a very very little) bit of understanding of the student’s rudeness if her impatience was about missing out on lesson time because of personal stories. Personally, I’ve had teachers that go on and on with personal stories and the lecture time suffers for it. However, seeing that the student promptly left as soon as her name was written down in the attendance log, it’s obvious that she only wanted credit for showing up so she could leave and go do whatever she intended to do instead of being in class. Far be it for someone’s conversation to get in the way of her skipping class (but, of course, getting credit for being there anyway).

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aje March 31, 2011 at 7:33 am

The thing that gets me the most about this tale is that the student left! Apparently her education isn’t as important to her as she lead us to believe!

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ferretrick March 31, 2011 at 7:35 am

I agree that the student could certainly have expressed herself better but a college classroom is most definitely NOT a boardroom and the teacher is not a CEO. A public school classroom, that analogy might be a little more accurate. But in a college classroom where the students are paying to attend, and that money goes to pay the teacher’s salary, the teacher is working FOR the students, and good teachers remember it. That doesn’t mean the teacher blindly does whatever the students want or doesn’t have the right to expect respect from the student body. But they also earn it by showing they value the time and money the student’s have invested in their education by providing a quality learning experience, not blathering on for fifteen minutes about their personal lives.

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Bint March 31, 2011 at 8:02 am

I lecture part-time and I’m paid to teach my students, not to yap about my personal life to them for a quarter of an hour before even taking attendance. My students are paying for my expertise and that would constitute ripping them off, however fascinated they are and however spectacular my life might be one week.

That said, the girl made a total fool of herself with her incredible rudeness. I’ve seen this done at a public lecture and nobody sympathises with the interrupter. How can she go back into that class without being mortified – ok, unless she’s shameless, but everyone now thinks she’s an idiot. Well done her.

The teacher handled it graciously, but it’s a shame she wasn’t more gracious at the start about her students’ education. I bet Rude Girl wasn’t the only one wishing she’d shut up and get teaching, frankly.

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Lauren March 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

Not only is the mannerin which the young woman expressed herself incredibly rude, but her motive in pushing for a roll call is suspect. OP noted that the professor “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.” Clearly the young woman didn’t want to waste her time in class and the professor’s stories were preventing her from leaving because her attendance for the day hadn’t yet been clocked in!

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Erin March 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

I’m also struck by the fact that she immediately packed up her things and left after the instructor took attendance. How does skipping a lecture help her education?

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Just Laura March 31, 2011 at 8:20 am

I was actually getting irritated with the instructor in this case, though I agree that the student’s method of redirected the conversation was overly blunt. Admin said it well: The instructor needed only a gentle prodding.

As a person who worked full time through graduate school, I value my time, and the amount of money spent to listen to and learning from a professor. If a professor isn’t giving me the full value of my money, I’m angry, as I would be with any other professional. What happens in the professor’s personal time should stay outside of the classroom. I paid over $1,500/hour for my education, and I was acutely aware that I couldn’t afford to allow anyone, professor or other students, to waste my money.

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Chloe March 31, 2011 at 8:21 am

What gets me is – this young woman was soo concerned about her education but once attendance was taken, she left. She sounds like some at the university I attend. People stick around for attendance for the extra marks on their grade and then sneak out.

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Michelle P March 31, 2011 at 8:21 am

I love admin’s advice; the right way to do it! I have a professor, bless his heart, he’s just as nice as can be, but he can ramble on with the best of them.

I’m in college finishing my prerequirements for nursing, and I LOVE teachers like this!

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AMC March 31, 2011 at 8:30 am

I find it even more appalling that after chastizing the professor for getting off topic and insisting she take attendance, the student up and left class. Guess her education didn’t matter that much to her after all. Sounds to me like she just wanted to get credit for showing up and then cut out early.

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Jay March 31, 2011 at 8:33 am

I think if I was the teacher, I would’ve given the class an easy pop quiz right after the woman left…

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Oh Joy March 31, 2011 at 8:38 am

What I find interesting is the disconnect between the outspoken student’s words and her actions. While she stated a desire to focus her class time on education, she left the class before the teacher complied with her reasonable-but-snarky request. This certainly sounds like someone with a stronger desire to complain than to find a favorable outcome.

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Typo Tat March 31, 2011 at 8:51 am

This girl certainly made a bad impression! But. This could well be one of the cases where you just don’t know what this person has on her plate.

I imagine that most of the students thought it great fun to hear all about their teacher’s adventures instead of studying. For someone preoccupied with her own troubles, though, it can be seriously irritating.

As for Ms Jeanne’s suggestion, it’s only slightly better than the original remark! That suggestion sounds to me both condescending and presuming. I’m sure there’s a polite way to divert the conversation, but that’s not it.

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VM March 31, 2011 at 8:55 am

And after she scornfully chides the teacher to get back on track with the lessons, she swans out before the teacher can even do so…Yeah, she’s real concerned about her “education”, all right. She might be a nursing student but it sounds like she’s more suited for the drama department.

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Gena March 31, 2011 at 9:10 am

I have to say that if the teacher is usually prepared and stays on topic, I would not have said anything about her straying this one time. I’ve had teachers that did nothing but talk about their personal lives or anything else that had nothing to do with the class, so this teacher sounds like a blessing.

I agree, this student is going to have a hard time. Some people think that if they do well in school or at work that’s all that matters and that is what they’ll be judged on. I’ve been in the business world for over 20 years and I can tell you that one is judged on many things. Quality of work is only one.

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etimodnar March 31, 2011 at 9:22 am

I think the OP has a lot of grace for her attitude towards the woman. It would be easy to feel all sorts of indignation and be rude right back, but it’s nice that you’ve finished the story well. I feel sorry for her too, that she could just enjoy the stories for what they were, knowing that all her other classes are going to be full on learning time.

I had an atrocious tutor who would lecture us well past the finishing time (he wasn’t he lecturer). He lectured the class before us too, meaning we’d start 30mins late and finish up to an hour late. I walked out a few times as it was a late class and wanted dinner. He wasn’t interesting like this teacher sounded, and he wasn’t educational either. My high school maths teacher though… we would willingly sit in through the first minutes of lunch to hear the end of his stories!

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Chocobo March 31, 2011 at 9:41 am

I disagree in one part — that the student should speak up in class at all, politely or impolitely. A teacher is a teacher, and some respect should be shown for being in their classroom. If a student has a problem with how the class is being run, or feels they are not learning enough, then speaking with the teacher privately after class to express their concerns is the best course of action. Mentioning aloud to the whole class that the teacher is way off subject is public embarrassment, and worse, on the teacher’s own turf. I just don’t see that as appropriate, no matter how nicely it is stated.

You might have more leeway with a CEO of a company — but then, you are in a meeting, where some collaboration is expected (because presumably you already know what you are talking about). But in a lecture, you are expected to learn. The differences in the contribution to the conversation in each scenario are nuanced, since in both you are a subordinate, but I do think it makes a difference on what you can and cannot do in front of the group.

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MetalRose March 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

How frustrating! I’m taking some classes myself right now and the instructor often peppers his lectures with some great stories on this subject. Some are totally off topic, but the classes are 4 hours 2 nights a week and then 8 hours a day once a week, so it’s needed at times to keep our attention or break it.

Sometimes though he gets lost in his stories and usually one of us will raise our hand and ask about the lecture topic and that brings him back.

Anyway, I can’t believe she would be so rude about it. I hear you on the clinicals part as well, having to be with someone who is too focused can sometimes miss the bigger picture, perhaps the lesson was supposed to be in bed-side manner, in which she failed….

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K March 31, 2011 at 10:07 am

Actually, no matter HOW you bring the teacher back on topic, someone will take offense. Perhaps it would have been better to have asked about the homework or current assignment instead of suggesting people take it up later, after class?
As for the classroom being like a boardroom? Uh no. The students are paying customers. They are paying with hard cold cash and their time. The teacher owes them her best ability to teach the subject. The students are not subordinates at the whim of a CEO.

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gramma dishes March 31, 2011 at 10:11 am

I find it interesting that the person who was so insistent upon keeping to the subject matter was the very person (and apparently ONLY person) who then, once attendance had been taken, got up and left before the subject matter was discussed.

The teacher handled this situation with grace and dignity. But if I were that teacher, I’d have marked the person who left absent for the day and I would have also included some special information about nutrition that was not in any textbook and would only be known to those who stayed around for the lecture. Then that would have constituted a very prominent part of my next test!

I would add that sometimes a student actually can learn more listening (occasionally) to personal stories and anecdotes that seem off topic than they might have learned if the teachers always stuck exclusively to the class’s subject matter. It least that has been my own experience in education and in life.

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Allie March 31, 2011 at 10:11 am

Ouch. The thing that really bothers me about this is the person’s motive for saying what she did. Your suggestion, Admin, is predicated on the assumption that she really felt that valuable lecture time should not be eaten up with personal stories, when in fact if there wasn’t going to be a lecture she just wanted to get the heck out of there and not waste her precious time hearing about someone else’s life. I was a student for many years, and I know all too well the “is this going to be on the exam” mentality. The minute there is any suggestion that something “doesn’t count”, then all some students can think about is splitting. It’s a poor way to live life, if you ask me. So much of life that’s wonderful comes out of the blue and is never going to be on any exam.

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Teapot March 31, 2011 at 10:19 am

This woman’s rudeness is amazing. Indeed, there was a much better way to ask that the class get back on track.

But the story made me think back to my undergraduate days. As a full-time student attending day classes I remember how students actually enjoyed it if the instructor strayed off-topic or had to cut class short. And if the instructor had to cancel a session, the announcement was met with cheers. Then I started taking evening classes. Almost every other student was older than me, all of them working full-time and going to college at night. These classes met once a week for 15 weeks and if a class meeting was cancelled, someone would immediately ask when and where the make-up class would be. One instructor in particular frequently would start talking about something not even remotely related to the subject and there was always someone who would try to steer things back to the course (although much more gracefully than OP’s classmate). One night when he was going on about something the woman next to me muttered ‘this isn’t what I’m paying for’. It was a lightbulb moment for me. I’d been fortunate to have received scholarships that covered my tuition the entire time I was in college. If I hadn’t, there was no way my parents could have helped me and I would never have asked them to. But these older students were paying for their education out of their own pockets. They paid a lot and had every right to expect that they got good value for their money. And even if they were paying with school loans, that debt would eventually have to be paid. That could be at the root of the student’s outburst. Then again, maybe she’s just one of those people who thinks the world is supposed to revolve around them and is outraged when it’s not happening.

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Bint March 31, 2011 at 10:42 am

It sounds to me as though the student lost her temper and left as a result of having done so, rather than because she didn’t want to be there. If the average class lasts an hour, she’s wasted 25% of her time sitting there already.

If I were the lecturer I’d have been mortified to have given anyone grounds to think I’ve wasted their time, regardless of how rude they were. I don’t see any such acknowledgement from the lecturer in this story, and I think that’s pretty off.

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Rug Pilot March 31, 2011 at 10:46 am

I took a class at the local community college on finance. The instructor spent most of the time telling stories from his experience in the field. For a short period before the midterm exam and the final he went over the questions. I learned more from those stories than I did from the book or the exam reviews. I use that information in my work.

I teach the same way – with examples to point out why I do certain things. I’m sure my students remember the stories when they run into the same situation.

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DGS March 31, 2011 at 10:51 am

As someone who teaches at least, 2 undergraduate or 1 undergraduate and 1 graduated course a term, I would say that a teacher-student relationship is that of a reciprocal agreement that is bounded by the same rules of courtesy as many other circumscribed social interactions. As an instructor, I provide students with my knowledge and expertise on the subject that is being taught, anecdotes that relate to that particular subject (for instance, case examples to illustrate a particular psychiatric disorder), fair means of assessment, supplemental materials and courteous treatment. In return, the student provides me with my salary through their tuition dollars, and the student is also bound to treat me with courtesy and respect and abide by the rules of classroom etiquette that I set (e.g. I do not allow my students to take notes on their laptops, as I have compelling evidence that they would get distracted with various social networking sites and other sites rather than taking notes for class). Those rules of clasroom etiquette certainly do not include speaking to one’s instructor in a disrespectful, condescending and nasty manner – I would not have hesitated to speak with that student privately after class and called her out on her manners and explained to her that speaking to me or anyone in such a way would result in her being asked to leave the classroom. We are all civilized human beings and should treat one another as such. That being said, like other posters, I would note that her education didn’t seem as important to this student as her attendance – she clearly had better things to do than be in her Nutrition class. I am confident that her subsequent performance in the class will reflect her attitude – she is probably, not going to do well.

I do think that Admin had a nicer way of gently steering the instructor back on track, although I might have cut this teacher some slack, as she was not someone who got side-tracked regularly.

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esie March 31, 2011 at 11:04 am

Speaking of straying off-topic…

I’ve lived around the military all my life and I’ve never heard of a Navy program that allows a ship to take tourists on a 2-week cruise around the ocean. Not only are these ships expected to be battle-ready at any given moment, but they’re full of classified (to use a computer term) hardware and software. Taking on tourists would be a grievous and unexcuseable breach of national security.

I’m not saying one doesn’t exist; I’m just saying that, especially in the heightened security conditions we live with today, it seems highly unlikely and almost, well, treacherous.

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RMMuir March 31, 2011 at 11:04 am

@Chocobo I guess it depends how you define showing respect. I think that asking a lecturer to get back on track could be done respectfully, especially as the others point out, people pay a lot for their education and their lecturers are there to do a job. If you were in a supermarket and the cashiers ignored their responsibilities to tell you and their co-workers about their recent trip, you would get rightfully irritated. I remember one lecture we had where the lecturer literally ranted for well more than half the allotted time about what he believed to be a poorly named condition. He unsurprisingly ran out of time. I wish someone had spoken up, even if they had been really rude about it, because that felt like a waste of my time.

Perhaps we have a cultural difference though. My dad is a uni lecturer, and he always is impressed by how much more respectful the Egyptian students are – he particularly like the way that they call him Professor, because in Scotland anyway, on people with a chair on the uni board get to be professors. Makes him feel very erudite!

I don’t know if I would want to suggest hearing the stories afterwards. I’m a medical student. We don’t have a lot of free time and there’s a lot to learn. Unless the lecturer was a supremely good storyteller, I doubt I would want to stay behind to listen to the stories.

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essie March 31, 2011 at 11:05 am

Back on topic…

I would suggest the teacher call roll at the END of the class in future…

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Sarah Jane March 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

Wow…when I was in college, things were very subjective. I gave my instructor the utmost respect if for no reason other than he was giving me my grade. If he wanted to talk about his dog for an hour and a half, I sat there with my mouth shut. If I felt I really needed to complain….well, that’s what the end-of-semester instructor evaluation was for.

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Just Laura March 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm

esie:
If you were actually affiliated with the Navy, I find it difficult to believe you’ve never heard of this. My brother serves in the Navy, and it’s called a Tiger Cruise. My father joined him for a lovely two-week sail from Hawaii to San Diego aboard the U.S.S. Stennis.

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ashley March 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I wonder if the impatient girl in question was just really embarrased from how rude she was and decided it would be best to leave and collect herself for a few moments; and figured it’d be best to do that right after she was put on the attendence. Who knows she probably just had a really bad day and took it out on the teacher. Not trying to defend her rudeness, but I wouldn’t judge her very much from it. We don’t know her backstory or anything or whether or not she ever came back to class that day. I just think that sometimes when we hear stories like this we assume too much about the offending person.

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Gloria Shiner March 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm

@esie: Two brothers in the Navy, and there were several times when family was welcomed to come and tour the ships they were on. Plenty of pictures to prove it, too!

It’s hard to know the complainer’s motivation for what she did. Could be she just wanted to be marked as attending, or could be she really embarassed herself. However, it sounds like the story-telling time did start with relevant anecdotes (the diet of the people on-board). Having one class session slightly highjacked isn’t the end of the world – especially if there is some relevance. Sometimes I find that students learn more from stories than from lecture!

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LovleAnjel March 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm

@Bint

“…the teacher gracefully apologized…”

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carotte March 31, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I need to write the last part of what the girl says to maybe use in one of my classes. With more tact and more maners of course, for a teacher that strayed out of subject last time. The problem is not that he was rambling off, I’ve had teacher that are facinating when they tell stories and anecdotes that are 95% of the time on topic, but this one pushed on a few delicate topics about politic/imigration/poverty that had absolutly nothing to do with the class. That he thinks so and so is his problem, but he actualy has no right ( as a teacher,by my country’s law) to talk about his personal view on politics. So the “this has nothing to do with my education” seems pretty apropriate.

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SM March 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I believe the instructor was not trying to waste class time talking about her personal life. This was a nutrional class and she did start out talking about the diet of people on the vessel she stayed on but got off topic when the class started asking her questions. When I was in nursing school, there were instructors who told personal stories of experiences related to the topic being taught, I and many others found the stories very helpfull. I think people should give this instructor a break, according to the OP, this instructor has never done this before and had always stayed on the topic being taught.

As for this rude student, people already picked up that she was already planning to skip the class and was only there to have her name wrote down. I have met people like her in nursing school and fortunately they don’t make it far in their nursing careers.

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AS March 31, 2011 at 12:46 pm

This reminds me of a time when I was an Undergrad, and we had a few exchange students (from a college in USA, I was in my home country then). Usually, we have exchange students from this college every year, and the students meet many students from our college in various capacities. Once, we had a meeting to discuss credit systems, because our college was planning to change from the system we were following to credit system. A group of students from various departments were chosen to meet the visiting students, and discuss how credit systems worked in their University. The discussion soon went into various cultural exchanges most people love to share when they are with people from other cultures. It was interesting, but that was not what we were supposed to do; and the moderator didn’t do anything to bring the conversation back on topic either. Then one girl stood up and very politely (in fact in the same tone that we were discussing) asked a question about credit systems. I think it clicked in everyone’s mind that that is what we were supposed to discuss, and we were back on track again. It was amazing how just one polite reminder is enough to bring people back on track.
As many people said, the young woman in OP’s story is very rude. From what OP said, the teacher has never waived from a topic before. It seems that she was just excited after meeting her daughter, and as the admin said, all she needed was probably a gentle prodding. Even if the young woman was missing on her “valuable lessons”, it does not help to be so rude (and how is it that her leaving immediately after instructor took the attendance does anything good to her lessons?). The teacher surely was very graceful.

BTW, we had a teacher in our middle school who would spend 50-75% of the class telling his own stories! None of us told him anything, but maybe that is the reason I quickly opted against selecting the subject he taught as soon as I had an option. I hate it when teachers regularly go off topic to talk of their own stories.

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Chocobo March 31, 2011 at 12:48 pm

@RMMuir: I live in the States, and anyone who is your lecturer for a university class is “Professor”, unless they are a teaching graduate student. But then, in most universities here, all faculty must have at least a terminal degree (meaning they have as much education as they can possibly get in their fields. For example: in chemistry, a Ph.D., in medicine, an M.D., in visual arts, an M.F.A). I don’t know if that is different in Scotland, and that might make the difference in the use of titles?

In any case, at most 4-year universities I always addressed my teachers as “Professor” or “Dr._____”, unless they demanded more familiar terms. This wasn’t always the case with my peers, but I feel that my professors’ expertise and high level of education, and just the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to even land a job as a professor commands a certain level of respect. I also don’t really see myself as a paying customer when it comes to my education. Yes, I am paying for my education, and I have certain expectations that I expect to be met as such. But a professor is not my barista, and I did not go to college to get a learning receipt. I don’t know, I just don’t see professors as some kind of service worker, there only for my benefit. Which they aren’t, usually; Teaching is a really big part of being a university professor, of course, but most of them do a lot of important research, publications, and other activities outside the classroom. Besides, you can usually pull out of the class during a certain grace period if it is not working for you, and there is a reason why professor evaluations exist.

Anyway, perhaps it is just the way I was brought up, but I would never contradict a professor directly or embarrass them in class like that. Instead I would ask leading questions to go in either the direction I wanted, or to point out what I thought might be a flaw. Not only does this build a better relationship with the person who is a) giving you a grade and b) trying to teach you something, but it often shows that you are critically thinking. Or if it was really bad, I would talk to them privately outside of class. I mean, I wouldn’t call my host out on something during a dinner conversation in their home, and I guess I see the professor in the classroom similarly — the classroom is their turf, and if I really have a problem we can talk about it privately later.

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The Elf March 31, 2011 at 12:50 pm

A teacher shouldn’t go on and on about personal stuff during class time. After all, the students are paying for the education! But it sounds like this hardly ever happened, in which case the teacher gets a bit of a pass, and the student in question went about it the wrong way. I do like it when professors share personal experience from the field; that’s on-topic and entirely a different thing.

I’ve seen attendence taking in college classes pop up now more than once – is that a new thing? I don’t remember it from my college days (90s). I guess back then they figured that adults are either going to show or not and it’s on them either way.

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Pam March 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm

If I had been a student in that classroom I would have LOVED to hear about life on a ship and it sounds like the prof was even talking the nutrition side of her experience. I think the discussion of her trip would have been a very good learning experience; if she talked about herself every class period, I would have a problem.

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Sarah Peart March 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Did I miss something? As a teacher I can tell you that there is time built into the year (or should be) for a few “dud” lectures or classes, normally we mark them down in our planning as “revision”. What if the teacher had been ill (i.e. absent), the class inattentive or there was a fire drill/actual fire? Also it was not unrelated to their course of study even if not the lecture foreseen. It was a personal but still pertinent examination of the subject she teaches. History is becoming the story of the average person and I for one value this. I also want to give the thumbs up to the moderators comment – this student will unexplainably remain at the bottom of her career ladder!

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--E March 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Aside from the obvious rudeness of the student, I focused on this part: “By this time, the young woman in question had collected her things and left.”

Am I to understand she stuck around just long enough to get counted on the attendance, and then departed? Makes me wonder if the rudeness was also a strategic threat: “Don’t mark me as absent, and I won’t tell Admin you were telling personal stories on class time.”

OP, it’s pretty common that students like that wash out of college in general and nursing programs in particular. I suspect you won’t have to worry for long about getting paired with this student.

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essie March 31, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Dang! That’s what I get for growing up around Uncle Sam’s Moronic Children! :P

Hey! I learned something new today! Thanks!

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Annalyn March 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Although I agree the student could have handled this much better, I think many readers are jumping to the conclusion that she was rude and that she left because she is a mean and bad person.

I had a professor that did this. I remember clearly the twenty minutes he spent talking about Krispy Kreme vs Mister Donut, the full hour he spent talking about Katrina, the other fifteen minutes discussing Vietnamese food and I remember being extremely ticked off over it. He even spent time making fun of another student’s name. He did things this EVERY lecture. The subjects varied every week. I hated the man by the end of that semester. What he didn’t know is that I was working 10 hour days and then driving an hour to be in his class and learn. If he didn’t have 3 hours of lecture (which he normally didn’t) I would have appreciated the dismissal so I could go home and do my homework for the other 4 classes I was taking and get some sleep for my full-time job. Instead I had to sit in the class glazing over trying to stay awake during some inane off-topic conversation.

Also, perhaps she needed to leave due to some circumstances, but has one of those annoying professors that tie grades to attendance (which it sounds like since she even takes attendance). I had a few and I never understood the policy. If I can pass your exams with A’s and complete all my assignments and projects with A’s without attending half the classes, why should I fail? Maybe a babysitter cancelled out on her at the last minute, maybe a family member was sick or in the hospital, maybe her car was broken down… I had all of the above happen to either me or my sister and we both had to go make ‘obligatory’ appearances to satisfy silly attendance policies.

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Enna March 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm

It is very unprofessional of the lecutuer to talk about herself first and not about the lecture: unless of course the lecturer is ahead in his her lecture sechulde and discusses it at the end of the seminar/lecture. I think the student who spoke up was a bit rude to in the way she did just a simple “pease could we have the lecture and discuss this interesteing topic afterwards?” would be more suited. The comment doesnt make sense:

“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.”

So talking about personal thigs after attendance is the right way to do it? I agree the fact that she walked out was just werid and rude. If she had done what Admin say and remained she’d have a valid point. At least the lecturer had the grace to get on with the lecture – doing so not only benefitted the class but highlighted what the rude student did. She can;t be THAT concerned over her education if she can’t be bothered to stay. Her education will suffer and that is how she will suffer professionally if she has such bad habbits. At least she isn’t a nasty school ground type bully doing her best to make people cry and feel bad about themselves.

Personally I wouldn’t want to work with her not because of what she said to the lectuerer but because she is unreliable. You could end up doing most of the work if she doesn’t turn up and have to deal with bad tempered patients because they’ve had to wait and are in pain because of it etc. Surely though if it is a nursing programme you HAVE to demonstrate a certain mount of academic and professional knowlegdge to qualify? If she skips classes and misses out on important information then she might not end up qualifying anyway and would have wasted her time or she could end up making a patient very ill or worse.

I had a teacher at school and he would go ON AND ON AND ON about random stuff because he liked the sound of his own voice – we didn’t learn much and were told once due to the stuff that we were using to draw pictures we would have to stay during break if we weren’t finished, thanks to him talking off topic. He wasn’t very understanding of those with learning difficulties either, my mum was a teaching assitant and was told by this particular teacher NOT to write what the homework was in the student’s book even though everyone else was writing their’s down. The student my Mum was helping needed it to be written down for him/her due to the learning difficulty – writing things in the wrong day etc.

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Bint March 31, 2011 at 2:08 pm

@Love Anjel – my bad, and thank you for pointing it out! I see she did apologise. And so she should. Anecdotes are there to highlight what you’re teaching. Wandering off that into ‘what I did on my holidays’ for 15 minutes is not professional, albeit not something that excuses Rude Girl.

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livvy March 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm

as AS’s story demonstrated, I think the best way to get a class / business meeting back on track is to ask a polite question about what the teacher/group is SUPPOSED to be discussing. For example, the rude student (assuming that she really did have an interest in Nutrition class, not just getting marked as “present”) could have said, “I’m sorry Professor, I had a question about the reading?” (or supposed topic of lecture). Even if the question seems apropos of nothing, she’d be forgiven for needing a legitimate question answered, and would bring the professor’s attention back to her lecture topic.

I have to agree with the other commenter that the Admin’s suggested interjection could be read as presumptious or even condenscending. If someone said it to me, I would take it as being snarky, not complementary. Sort of like, “yes, well, that’s all very interesting, and I’m sure we’d all love to hear more about it, but can we get back on topic?”

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Alexis March 31, 2011 at 3:35 pm

How stunningly rude to the person giving out grades! I lose patience with the attitude that education is a product and the professor ‘works for’ the students. Actually, the students work for the professor. It’s the student’s job to learn. You work to earn a degree, you don’t buy it. And if in the process of earning that degree you have to sit through a couple of personal stories, too bad! A consistent habit of straying off topic is an issue that needs to be dealt with, in private, after class! Not with public rudeness! But 15 minutes of one class?! That student just felt like being a jerk, as evidenced by the fact that she left anyway, before the lecture. Part of the education experience is learning how to deal effectively with other people, both superiors and subordinates in many different situations. Anyone as rude and inflexible as this woman demonstrated herself to be is going to be a terrible nurse and a bitter miserable human being with a huge chip on her shoulder. I agree with Miss Jeanne. She’s going to fail in life unless she gets over herself soon. If you want to get a lecture back on track a polite question about the relevant subject matter is all it should take. But it doesn’t sound as if she had any relevant questions, or any interest in the subject matter or she wouldn’t have left.

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Kimberly March 31, 2011 at 4:32 pm

So, this student wanted attendance taken for her education, but she actually left before she would have got what she was paying for in this class? Anotherwords, she did not stay in this class and listen to what would have been her education.

Therefore, if I was her teacher, I would have turned around and marked her butt absent and if the student complained, I would have told her that, as the teacher, I did listen to her statement, took attendance, did not speak of my personal life any longer and taught the class…but said student had left before the lecture started, therefore she is considered absent for the day!

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LBC March 31, 2011 at 4:44 pm

“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. . . “

Frankly, I would have given the lecturer a bit of a pass, considering the circumstances. It sounds as though she is not a habitual wanderer and this was an isolated incident of topic-drift. We’re all human, right? My best professors occasionally–occasionally, mind you–wandered off-topic, and I doubt it made a dent in the overall quality of my education.

I also think both the lecturer and the OP handled this with a lot of class.

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Allie March 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Some have commented on the practice of taking attendance in a college class, which one person referred to as “silly attendance policies”. There are many reasons to take attendance in a college class. Some programs, and I would think nursing fits into this category, require the student to have logged a certain number of classroom hours in order to qualify for the practicum or “clinical” part of the program. This is a way to ensure that they are competent enough, at least theoretically, to work in a clinical setting. Other teachers use this as a cusion to help them distribute grades and to help them decide what to do with students on the cusp between grades (i.e. whether to bump them up or bump them down). Such a cusion can be particularly helpful if there is an imposed “curve” where the teacher has to distribute grades in a particular way (i.e. 70% Bs, 20% Cs and 10% As). Some programs have this policy, which I do not agree with. If all the students in a class are exceptional, they should all be able to get an A. But such policies come from administration, not the teacher. In any event, if a student is having attendance problems due to life circumstances, all they need to do is alert the teacher. Most are more than reasonable and will not penalize a student who is unable to attend for valid reasons.

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