Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Manners, Manners

There is apparently an email exchange between a student and a business prof that is going viral.  The gist of it is that a student walked in an hour late the first day of class, apparently sampling three of them in one night, and got kicked out by the prof for being late.  The student emailed to explain, and the prof then sent an email to the student and to his entire class explaining his policy.  The punchline:

"Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a live/work balance...these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility...these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back and you will not achieve your potential which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It's not too late xxxx..".
Even if this prof is an ass, which may or may not be the case, this is great advice.  Get the easy stuff right--such as being considerate and having a dose of common sense.  I have often joked that my dogs (now one dog) are more strategic than my graduate students.  Of course, my dogs (past and present) have demonstrated keen strategic thought so that the bar is not low.  Still, students, graduate and undergraduate, can still surprise me with some thoughtlessness.  Not all students at all, just a distinct minority that not only surprise me but stun other students as well. Such as:
  • At my old job, I had no window, so I kept the door open.  Which meant students would not only ask me for directions (a minor foul), but to borrow a pen or a stapler (medium foul), and even to borrow my phone or to print something out (major foul).  
  • The prof in the exchange is more annoyed by lateness, but also registers annoyance with what the student did in his other classes--get up and leave early.  I find this far more distracting.  At TTU, I once set my TAs upon those who would flee early.  I do not do that anymore as the flight of both the rude one and his/her pursuers just amplified the distraction.
  • I have had students try to argue with me before class to use the microphone to announce something to my captured audience.  I now have a strict policy of no announcements other than those related to my department.  Otherwise, I would have a line out the door for folks who want to announce things to 600 students.  The entitlement here drives me nuts--that I ought to give time to anyone who has any thing to say as their causes are noble and just in their minds, which they probably are.
  • Last year, in the middle of class, there was a student who raised his hand, and I thought it strange that he was still wearing his coat, but in a class of 600, I don't know every face.  So, he proceeded to start to announce his love or lust for one of the students in the class and to give her a gift.  I interrupted him and kicked him out.  I then told the lady in question that she should keep in mind that her boyfriend lacks judgment.  She agreed.
  • And, of course, the banal "I missed class for excuse x, did I miss anything important?"
To be clear, the students at McGill are great, but some are a bit immature and need to think a bit before acting/talking.  Of course, I am still more than a bit immature and probably should think a bit before posting blog entries like this.  Ooops, too late.


Steve Greene said...

I could've sworn you had a window.

Anonymous said...

Students probably thought you were a janitor...