Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Keener Weighs In - Nancy Notetaker From The Other Side of the Lectern

Some students share their professors' frustrations over other students. I am a student on the verge of graduating. I will be pursuing a master's degree next year. I am the top student in department X at my university. I am respectful towards my professors. I appreciate their feedback even when it's critical (I may wince, but I am thankful). And, I try to be understanding about my professor's personal and academic commitments. I realize that many of my fellow students view their professors as the "hired help," however, and I sympathize with your vexation.

In my first year of university, a woman who claimed to be a fellow student in my intro to psychology class ran up to me in while I was standing in line at the student coffee house.

"Hey, you're in my psych class," she said while she chomped on a wad of bubble gum.

"I am?" I asked.

"Yeah, you're that keener in the front row. Listen, could I get some notes?"

"Um, from the last class?" I asked.

"No, from all year," she replied, "I, like, lost mine, and need them for the final"

"You lost all of them?" I asked.

"Yeah, lost them, and missed some classes, and you know..." she replied, not making eye contact.

I offered to give her notes if she would pay for them (hey, tuition is expensive, I profit where I can) and she stormed away in a dramatic huff. Considering the designer clothing she was wearing, she probably could have afforded to pay for my notes, but apparently my academic diligence is not worth her good dollar.

Throughout my university career I have been bombarded by fellow students asking me to give them notes, tutor them, edit their papers, and tell them the secret to life, the universe and everything, and all for free. Oftentimes the same students requesting my services are the ones who sleep, chat on instant messenger on their laptops, or read Maxim magazine while the professor is trying to lecture. They make fun of me when I ask questions. After I voiced some of my opinions in my intro to Women's Studies course, a fellow student, standing in the hallway after class, hissed "dyke" at me as I passed, assuming, I suppose, that any person who believes women are still oppressed must be an angry, man-hating lesbian.

Now, as a grading assistant for department X, I read papers written by first year students who are, well ... barely literate. I have a whole new sympathy for my professors. After marking a few horridly written papers one after the other, I am often enormously frustrated. I am in a strange position, however, because I am not a professor. I don't have to think back and remember how challenging being an undergrad was, because I still am one.

As much as many of my fellow students upset me at times, I have come to realize that most students, even if they appear apathetic, have some vested interest in their education. They also may be ill-equipped to deal with their university. Students are not taught grammar and spelling in elementary school or high school anymore; I certainly wasn't and first year was a bit of a wake-up call. Many students probably got into university without ever having studied for tests or even cracking a book in high school. I am not arguing that professors should give students inflated marks, or sit back and smile when they're acting like a royal pain. I just want to ask that professors remember that, especially for first year students, university is very intimidating.