Dear Student Part 4: Common Student Questions by Professor Mark Lewis

Mark Lewis is a distant colleague and buddy of mine; we met years ago at a conference held on the campus of the University of  Nebraska; he offers some interesting points on the “dumb” things students ask. Oh, he blames me for students asking the questions below.

I wanted to contribute to this discussion, so I asked Carson if I could submit two pieces of advice blog posts. This one is a less serious post than the other one Carson will post for me. Funny, but Carson and I were at a conference few years back when we were comparing his upper-school students to my college freshman. In the end, we concluded that there is little difference between a high school student and freshman and sophomore in college. Let me add this, on my campus, we do not practice open or easy enrollments, either. So, dear student, here are the type of questions you will encounter from your future students; I suspect at one point you have asked such questions.

  1. “I can’t be in class tomorrow. Will you be talking about anything important?”
  2. “Is this score on my exam the number wrong or the number right?”
  3. “I got the exact same answer as my classmate, but she got a higher grade.”
  4. “I can’t be in class tomorrow. And, I am not sure how to read the syllabus. What should I read?”
  5. “Is this going to be on the test.”
  6. “I knew the material. I just couldn’t give it back to you on the exam.”
  7. “Do we have to take the final exam?”
  8. “Can we drop a grade?”
  9. “Do you grade on a curve?”
  10. “Do we have to read the textbook?”
  11. “Will you give us a study guide that explains exactly what is on the exam?”
  12. “I know I should have come by to see you before the exam, but I don’t understand what we have been learning.”

18 thoughts on “Dear Student Part 4: Common Student Questions by Professor Mark Lewis

  1. I’ve actually had classes where the professor was required to assign a textbook by the university, but did not actually teach out of it. Sometimes it’s OK to ask if the textbook is actually necessary. Additionally, if the person asking the question in number 2 actually asks it with that sort of grammar, they should immediately fail the course. Or at the very least, be required to write an essay extolling the virtues of grammar and its importance in communication with professors.

  2. Teachers that like to him themselves talk tend not to assign textbooks. As for the grammar on q2, oh well. I love q10, though.

  3. Jason, it would only be funny if it weren’t the God’s-honest truth. I’ve heard most of these, and seriously? If I weren’t STANDING THERE as some of my students said some of the things they say to me, I would never, EVER believe that anyone would say such things at all. Add these to the list above:

    “I won’t be able to do my homework tonight; I’m going to the dance/there’s a great t.v. show on”

    “When you said it was “homework,” I didn’t know you meant we had to turn it in.”

    “How long does it have to be?”

  4. Yes. That’s usually asked about 4 days before the semester is over.

    Casey: often a textbook isn’t required because professors are attempting to help lower education costs for students. With the abundance of resources available electronically now, it’s totally possible to teach most classes without the aid of an expensive textbook and without hearing only thoughts from the specific professor’s head. In addition, the class could be a research course or a discussion based course in which case the professor would not be hearing himself talk.

  5. Kristi: e-books are the way of the future. I did go to school.

    mrs chili: Every time I assign an in-class essay, I am asked:
    “How long does it have to be?”

    My response: long enough.

  6. Congratulations. I wasn’t actually referring to e-books, but rather published studies, the wealth of information on MIT’s open courseware web site, and published powerpoint presentations and the like. Also, as I wasn’t attempting to be rude (believe me, you’ll know when that happens), I would thank you not to respond quite so snippily. I’ve been to school too and taught college classes. You don’t have to use a textbook or an e-book and it doesn’t just mean that you like to hear yourself talk.

    I’ve always been driven a little crazy by no. 5. I used to hate when students would ask me that. I taught chemistry and I can guarantee you that if I bothered to present it, you should bother to learn it. That stuff’s too hard to teach to bother explaining things that you have no use for.

  7. …and we have become a society driven by power points. Hey, why read a textbook…right? I try to limit my use of such. My evaluations reflect that students are sick of being power pointed to death. I guess it is an issue when every teacher uses one.

    Kristi — Casey is a great guy.

    Casey — In our field, teachers like to hear themselves talk. I kid you not, I once had a class of 5 students. The instructor still wanted to lecture. I should have told him that I read the book.

  8. You know Carson, just because you use someone else’s powerpoint to prepare doesn’t mean you have to present your class with a powerpoint. I was merely pointing out that there was a plethora of information available that didn’t included textbooks or e-books and also didn’t mean that the professor only liked to hear themselves talk.

    And yes, in your field instructors do like to hear themselves talk. And talk. And talk.

  9. Casey, that’s my usual response, too, until I get a kid who’s SURE that s/he can give an appropriate response to a complex and multi-pronged question in a page and a half.

  10. These questions make me want to tear my hair out and then dip my head in a giant bucket of Tabasco Sauce®.

    I hear them daily.

    Perhaps I need some sort of threatening poster in my room. Or maybe a question bouncer, a big brawny fellow, like Steve from The Jerry Springer Show, who will take care of those who get out of line with these sorts of questions.

    Ah students…love ’em!

  11. Pingback: Chutzpah « A Teacher’s Education

  12. I managed to kill a lot of those questions in my introductory lecture. It included the following points:

    If I say, if it is in the assigned readings, or if it is mentioned in class, it will be on the test.

    I grade on traditional percentages.

    You don’t have to come to class. You don’t have to read the assignments, you don’t have to buy the book, you don’t have to look at the syllabus and you don’t have to come to class. I get paid no matter what grade you get.

    My office hours are: X to Y on ZZZday. Other than that, call my assistant and make an appointment.

    I never had a student with the gall to ask about extra credit. Shortly after giving the first exam (but before returning it), I remind them that THEY are the only ones that can control their grade. Any questions as to “what is my grade” or “what do I have to do to pass” are referred back to the syllabus, where there is a list of assignments and exams, and the percent that each one is worth. If you can’t figure out a percentage, you don’t belong in my class.

    Having said all of that 9and sounding like a complete hard-ass), I will admit that I taught mostly senior level University courses at a very competitive research oriented school, in a department that made no bones about the fact that our sole educational purpose was to train scientists. Undergrads tended to not take our classes unless they were in our department, and we had pretty high standards, so we tended to not get many of the “coasting” students…

  13. “our sole educational purpose was to train scientists. Undergrads tended to not take our classes unless they were in our department, and we had pretty high standards, so we tended to not get many of the “coasting” students…”

    Man, I have heard this a number of times from folks that teach in science departments. I took a few courses, but as you have stated, no upper-level courses. No way. I fear you folks.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s