Professor Peeves: the worst things you can do in class



by Hope Smith

After you spend 15 to 30 minutes trudging or cycling to campus at the crack of dawn, you want to locate your classroom, drop your scoliosis-inducing backpack to the floor and hunker down for a lecture.

You might take your cell phone out to shoot your pal a text, open up a granola bar or wave a fellow classmate over to the empty seat next to you. But here’s something you may not have realized: all of these things drive your instructors crazy.

A survey conducted online by the Kernel of 108 professors showed that 67 percent of the professors polled hate it when students text throughout the class instead of actually paying attention and soaking up the knowledge they pay for.

“I can’t stand it when students try to hide the fact that they’re texting by texting under a desk, or in their backpacks,” Kate Ponto, UK associate professor of mathematics, said.  “It’s disruptive to everyone, and the student understands less material.”

The survey, which allowed professors and instructors to vote on what students do that annoys them the most, asked participants to choose five things that are most annoying.  Talking during class tied for the second most annoying student behavior with 60 percent of the votes.

“A little talking doesn’t bother me,” Lynn Phillips, geography lecturer, said.  “It’s the ongoing, private conversations that I don’t like … that loud din of giggling and talking during lectures.”

Showing up late to class and forgetting to turn off cell phones were next on the list of undesirable behaviors, followed by late or missing assignments.

One instructor added a new item to the list: students who give wild excuses to miss class.

“I’m not happy with how easy it is to get excuse notes,” Chris Huggins, sociology lecturer, said.

Huggins recalled one student who had missed two weeks of school and then e-mailed him to ask how he could keep from falling behind if he needed to miss another four weeks of class because of a severe case of mononucleosis. Huggins wondered why the student even bothered to remain enrolled in the course.

“A student’s weird excuse doesn’t make me feel any better,” Ponto said. “They’re usually just too much information anyways; it doesn’t help the situation.”

According to the poll, eating in class isn’t a big deal, and skipping is less irritating to professors than showing up late.  However, one pet peeve the poll overlooked is sleeping in class.

“I teach a class that begins at 2 p.m. in one of the hottest classrooms on campus, so I can understand if a student falls asleep every once in a while,” Phillips said. “But I really can’t sympathize with the students who come to class, sit in a chair by the wall and prop up their comfy, down jackets just so they can take a nap.”

Another pet peeve not in the poll, according to Huggins, is student expectations of the electronic availability of lecture notes.

“PowerPoint presentations are great, but they’re not always effective,” Huggins said. “It’s getting to the point where students just expect the lectures to be available online all the time, but that’s simply not the case.”

But for the most part, these three instructors said they weren’t overly annoyed with students on a day-to-day basis.

“I generally don’t have many problems,” Phillips said.