Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to School Etiquette: Plagiarizing Drezner

Dan Drezner has a useful addendum to the NY Times op-eds on back to school. His post focuses on cell phones and wifi (turn them off in class), reading the syllabi, and using wikipedia to find resources but not as a source itself for papers. An excellent start.

After teaching for something like 15 years (started in 1993, but minus one sabbatical and one leave), I am still learning and still surprised by what students do and expect. So, here are some additional tips, many focused on stuff I observed either last year or this year on the first day of class (my second day is tomorrow). Remember, most of these are based on very large lecture classes, although nearly all apply to small classes and even seminars.

  1. Coming in late occasionally is understandable, but leaving early is much less so and much more distracting.
  2. Don't plan on using the course as a forum for your announcements--the prof has limited time and cannot let every student organization. [My class of 600 is a desired market, apparently and people seem to think they have a right to make announcements]
  3. Don't plan on announcing your deep love or intense like for someone in the class and make sure your dim-witted boyfriend (who is not taking the class) understands this. [Yes, this actually happened last year].
  4. Don't interrupt the prof when he/she is lecturing. Raise your hand and if he does not answer you, wait. And ration your questions. If it is a very large class, don't expect to have a dialogue with the prof--don't expect to ask more than 1-2 per class. I had a student who practically took over the first day and even began to ask questions whenever I took a breath (which is not all that often). The good news is that it build solidarity among the rest of the students in an us vs. them kind of way (with the one student being the them).
  5. If you are a tour guide for the campus admissions department, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, lead your followers through the classroom from one side to another. Just peak in from the top corner. Do not be a distraction. Of course, I have no clue why anyone would want to show a huge lecture hall to potential applicants. This happened twice last year!
  6. Be kind to your teaching assistant--they are the class "Death Panel" as they grade the papers, the participation and the like. And they do communicate to the professor, especially when a student is a "challenge."
  7. Monitor your own sucking up. There is a curvilinear relationship--that means that too much sucking up can be as bad as or worse than none at all.
  8. Do watch TV and see some movies so that you can get my pop cultural references. Sample discussion question--is anarchy in International Relations more like Lost, Survivor or Deadwood?
This may sound negative, but the don't's are easier to develop than the do's. I have a great respect for McGill students, and most problems tend to emanate from a very few students. The rest are polite, respectful, attentive, incredibly sharp, and most interesting. Just the old 10 percent problem at work.

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