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Dear Student

In a recent post, I talked about some apathetic students. Some comments suggested I’m not an engaging enough instructor. I expect a certain amount of resistance to almost any post I write, but one comment did disturb me. Evan DeliFi, who claims to be a student, said, “As a student who pays for my own education I view myself as my teachers’ employer. I am paying for a service and I should be able to consume as much or as little of that service within the pre-determined bounds that I am paying for. It is your job as a teacher to make class-time engaging and necessary for success in the classroom. I have been through far too many classes where everything covered in the lecture was in the book and attendance offered no tangible benefit to me in terms of achievement on the exams. In these cases as long as the teacher doesn’t score points for attendance, which by the way is absurd, I would simply elect not to attend class on many occasions and still get an A in the class.” He says more. You can go read the comments if you’d like.

This commenter disturbs me because I fear other students share his skewed and self-important view of college instructors. In case this is true, I’d like to respond to some of his views and add to my earlier post about student apathy.

Students:

• You do not pay my salary. You do pay tuition, but your name is not on my checks. Even if you did pay my salary, it wouldn’t make me cater to your every whim. Consider me a physical trainer, but for your mind. I’m going to push you and expect a certain amount of effort from you before I let up.

• I am not here to entertain you. If you are entertained, consider it a perk. Feel lucky. If you are not entertained, you are less lucky. But you all have to do the same work and be part of, or at least listen to, the same discussions. Unless, of course, you choose not to come to class.

• I expect you to come to class. This is the bare minimum. You may think class time is pointless. Maybe it is sometimes. But how will you know if you aren’t there? Besides, you’re paying for an education and you will be wasting your money if you don’t do the bare minimum. I guarantee that if you go to every class, you will eventually learn something.

• Generally, if I can get to class on time, so can you. We are all human beings with obstacles to overcome. In the mornings, on top of getting myself ready, I wake up my 3-year-old son, feed him and get him dressed, I feed my four dogs and three cats, I let them out to potty, and I take my son to preschool. Then, I drive 45 minutes to work. I have little sympathy for “My alarm didn’t go off” and the like.

• Of all the students I’ve had, the ones who seek knowledge and understanding, as opposed to grades, have succeeded in my class, in other classes, in their subsequent studies, and in their subsequent careers.

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Bilal Kamoon.]

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