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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students growing more disinterested in class

Published: November 8, 2013
Section: Opinions

Imagine walking into a lecture hall for class.Your professor is setting up the day’s notes on the board: laying out the outline, listing the reading for next class and writing an announcement for his department’s “Meet the Majors” event. Typically arriving at just four minutes before the hour, you head to your regular seat, even though there are no assigned seats in a lecture, and prepare yourself for the class. Pulling out your notebook and a pen or pencil, you might also check your phone for a text. You type out your response just as the room begins to quiet and the professor turns around from the board to begin. A few minutes after he begins with the day’s lesson, you notice someone casually walk in late.

He or she slinks into the first available seat, and sets up their meal for the class. If it is the morning, maybe a bagel and coffee; around noon, you can find them with a sandwich, or possibly a cup of fruit. A water bottle is most common, and if you happen to be sitting by them, the whine of swallowing fluid will distract you from the lecture content. After finishing their first spoonful of Greek yogurt, they reach for their bag and pull out their laptop. Taking a few minutes to turn on their computer, opening a document to take notes and logging into Facebook, it is now almost 10 minutes into a 50-minute class. And as you begin to wonder how this person is able to retain any knowledge from this class, they pull out their phone to begin texting.

Lecture classes are full of this kind of student—the one who understands the importance of showing up to classes, but do not understand that class time is limited. Instead, they choose to use class as a chance to eat or check their social calendar. I always wonder if they are able to succeed in class if this is the effort they put into learning. I understand that it might be easier for them to learn with their computers, so it is easier to save and access all of their notes or use the internet to search something quickly. I am the complete opposite; I just need a pen and paper to be able to understand what the professor is lecturing about. Yet nobody can pay attention in a class if they are sitting on Facebook or texting someone who might not even go to this school.

It leads me to wonder if this is how these students treat all of their classes. I contemplate if they were accepted into college with these habits, or if they evolved as they got further involved in college and could not treat every class with the same care and love as they would for a class in their major. Lectures are typically the shortest classes offered here at Brandeis, as they are simple presentations where the student needs to copy down what’s on the board and record the professor’s words. It is very easy to use the lecture time to focus on non-class activities, trying to pick up only the most important facts from the class. This becomes even less difficult if the powerpoint slides are posted on LATTE after class. Sometimes you just have to choose your battles.

Yet how can they not treat these classes with respect? Students should recognize the effort that the professor puts forth by listening intently. Respect professors by showing up on time and not treating the lecture hall like a cafeteria. Respect the class by actually using the class time as it is meant to be used. As easy as it is to show up late to class and waste time to set yourself up, it is just as easy to get there an extra two minutes early and really pay attention to the class. Who knows, maybe you will get confused by something and can ask the professor to explain himself further, and you might gain something out of paying attention.

College presents a busy schedule of trying to fit everything in, and waking up 20 minutes later or perhaps not waiting in line for coffee will severely inhibit your preparedness for the day. But if you are going to spend the effort to get out of bed and get to class, you should put 100 percent into it.