Hey, students: How not to be a jerk in class

As a counterpart piece to the previous post for professors, “How to Avoid Being a Jerk in the Classroom,” I’m including the other side — something that a professor might say to a student.

Its essence: Act like a grownup, and I’ll treat you like one.

I had the link in a previous Notes in the Margins, but I thought it deserved its own post at this point. It’s called “Welcome to My Classroom,and is by Rob Jenkins, an associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College. It’s for everyone who’s tired of students who expect to be mollycoddled.

He doesn’t have a list, so I’ve made one below out of his essay. But read the article in full. It’s cathartic.

1) If you put as much effort into taking this class as I put into teaching it, you’ll definitely learn something. Whether or not that effort translates into the grade you want remains to be seen.

2) As technology has advanced, I have too. So please, no handwritten essays.

3) Over the years I’ve also learned a lot from my students, which has occasionally led me to change the way I do things. On the other hand, I do still use a lot of the same activities and assignments I used 20 years ago, because they work.

4) Even if you’re a 17-year-old dual-enrollment student, while you’re in my class you’re an adult, and I intend to treat you as such.

5) You don’t need permission for most things. You don’t have to raise your hand to speak, use the restroom or leave early for an appointment. Nor will I penalize you for being late to class once in a while, or even being absent on occasion.

6) But I expect you to act like adults. Show good manners, be considerate of others, and don’t be a jerk. That means you won’t interrupt other speakers, including me. You won’t routinely be late to class, or regularly leave before it’s over, because that’s rude. And you’ll keep your cellphone turned off.

7) You are personally responsible for everything we cover in class, whether you’re here or not. If you decide not to come, please don’t stop by the lectern before class to say, “Can you tell me what we talked about on Monday?” No, I can’t sum it up in 30 seconds. I recommend that you exchange e-mail addresses with two or three classmates and agree to share information. If you have a legitimate reason for your absence then come by and see me during office hours and I’ll try to bring you up to speed.

8) I don’t give many A grades. And for a very good reason: There aren’t many A students. A means “outstanding,” and by definition not everyone can stand out.

9) On the other hand, while not everyone can excel, a lot of people can be good. It’s very possible to get a B in my class. Because B means “good.”

  • get off my lawn

    10) You will have homework; if you choose not to do it and turn it in there will be no sympathy when you do poorly on the exams. If you do the homework, seek help during office hours and still have trouble on the tests there may be leniency — if you are working as hard as possible then you should not fail.

    11) If your parents “help” you with your homework and you do poorly on the exams; blame them not me. If your helicopter parent calls me, I am willing to show them your scores and how they boil down to your grade. You will be required to be present during the call which will be on speaker phone. Almost certainly this will not result in a change to your grade.