5 Things Professors Don’t Know: First of a Series

I asked the brave and astute students in my upper-division nonfiction creative-writing class what they’d say if offered the chance to address the faculty. They responded with alacrity, sending in their work before the deadline and writing with a sense of authority derived from many years of classroom observation.

This is the first in the series. Written by Alana Wenick, it offers an excellent introduction to what is now known as “The 5 Things Assignment”:

Professors: Some we love, some we hate, and all of them we need. But you can’t tell a professor how you feel because they hold the keys to your future in their bony hands. I could, of course, try to offer up some constructive criticism, but I have a feeling that the conversation would go a lot like this: “Oh, so you don’t think I put enough information on the slides, Alana? Can you say that a little louder? I can’t hear you over this massive ‘F’ that I’m writing on your paper.”

With that in mind, I’ll share a few things that I wish professors knew (but I was always too afraid to say to them): 

1)    I have never MLA-cited anything by myself in my entire life. Ever. Writing your own citations ended around the same time that people discovered the incredibleness that is Professors may want us to do it the old-fashioned way (you know, the way that actually requires the firing of neurons) but then again I wanted an A in Physics and a pony for my birthday. Looks like we can’t all get what we want. I mean, let’s be real, if I can have my citation done for me with three mouse clicks, why try to do it myself? Now that the technology is available, we shouldn’t deny ourselves its usefulness. That’s like telling math majors that they have to do all of their addition and subtraction without an abacus.   

2)    I’m sorry to any future Ph.D. candidates who are reading this right now, but if you look like a celebrity, political figure, or tabloid personality, don’t even bother getting that degree. We will not listen to you. Ever. The entire time we will merely be distracted by the fact that we’re being taught by a look-a-like. Rather than focusing on the reading, entire class periods will be devoted to trying to get a picture of you on our cellphones. You’ll have better luck getting us to pay attention if you grow a unibrow and teach in a clown costume. I had a Sporty Spice look-alike once and every time she opened her mouth I envisioned her wearing a sports bra and dancing around to “Spice Up Your Life.” Even better, my roommate once had “President Palmer” from “24″ teach her Microbiology. After President Palmer died in the show, we would sit around all day imagining conspiracy theories regarding him hiding out in Storrs, Conn. UConn was like his bat cave. We could only hope to be his Catwomen. Needless to say, few female students did well in that class.

3)    You probably know this just as well as we do, but seeing you in a place outside of the academic setting is one of the most awkward moments ever. When you’re done with class everyday we like to think that you disappear, surfacing at random moments to check your email, and then slinking back into oblivion. We imagine all professors kind of like holograms, turning on for class and then pressing the off-button afterwards. Bathrooms are especially awkward. If I hear you peeing next to me I am instantly uncomfortable and slightly nauseated. Not to mention the added stall-to-stall conversation is completely disturbing. Okay, Dr. Chatty Cathy?

4)    If you literally read off of a paper for an hour and fifteen minutes this does not count as a lecture. Everyone will either be asleep or hate you. I had a professor once do this for the full 14 weeks of the semester. She would often pause and look up at us, as if expecting some sort of a reaction. What did she expect us to do? Stand up and break out in raucous applause? If you can’t remember the material, than why should we? 

5)    There is no need to put those “just for fun” optional readings on the syllabus. We will never read them. If I even see the word “optional” my eyes glaze over and I will go back to thinking of something pointless, like how many grapes I can possibly stick in my mouth without suffocating. There’s a better chance of me shimmying into class followed by a conga line of maroon pandas than actually reading your optional paper. If you really wanted us to read it in the first place it would have been mandatory.   

All right, so now that that’s out in the open I’m just going to hide in my room for the next couple of days. You never know which professor might catch wind of this. Or I may read one of those “just for fun” articles. Meh, who am I kidding? My roommate has “24″ on and I think I’m hearing President Palmer.  And he’s definitely not talking about microbiology.




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