“Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, Mr. Kotter – If I Try to Answer Every Question Will I Get a Better Grade?”

Let’s discuss the Horshack principle from a teacher’s point of view. If you’ve never seen an episode of Welcome Back Kotter, you may not know the character, Horshack, played by Ron Palillo – an overly eager, front row student who couldn’t stop raising his hand. Imagine a version of Anthony Weiner with no control over his body parts. Wait – Horshack is Anthony Weiner! Clearly these two have been separated at birth.


What do you think I’m thinking when I get a Horshack in my class? Here’s what my air bubble says. “I love students who raise their hand.”


In fact, regardless of how ridiculous a comment, I can almost always find a way to work it into the lesson.  At this point, it has become a personal challenge to tackle even the most off beat comments and make them worthwhile.  Case in point. You talk about Miley Cyrus’s tongue and I give a lecture on marketing teen celebrities.


But the question we really want to answer is whether this classroom interaction results in a higher grade.  My answer – it depends on the teacher. Some teachers, and for good reason, dislike random comments, excessive hand raising and students that try to dominate the classroom.  Most teachers prefer quality-over-quantity and will attempt to reward thoughtful insight
delivered strategically over the semester.


Here’s my recommendation. If you’re constantly striking a Horshack pose (see photo above) and your teacher consistently ignores you, do your GPA a favor and give your hand a rest. 

Hey Angry Student – I Won This One.

Every semester, I get an angry student.  The angry student is easy to spot. Arms twisted across their chest, slunk back in the chair with a look that says, “Go ahead, just try and teach me.” 


Within minutes of my opening lecture, I’ll get challenged on something simple. Most recently, it was the spelling of my first name. That’s right. The name I’ve been sporting for almost 50 years came under scrutiny. How do you respond to that? Here goes: Talk to mother about my name and p.s., she’s way angrier than you.


My best friend in high school was an angry student. It got to the point that even I was afraid to sit next to her. But at the end of the day, she did well in school and now that I’m a teacher I know why she excelled.


Being angry means you’re awake. Being angry means you’re listening. Being angry means you’re brain is working and attempting to question and challenge.  Oh NO! These are the same elements required for learning.


Hey Angry Student – Is it possible your distaste for the classroom has caused the exact thing you were attempting to avoid?  Is it possible I actually like your negative attitude because it’s something I can work with in class? Is it possible I look forward to your comments because it helps me see another point of view?


Is it possible we both won? I taught. You challenged. We learned. Let’s just call it even. 

If I Sit in the Front Row, Will I Get a Better Grade?


It’s Saturday night and within minutes you’re approached by someone sitting at the bar. They strike up a conversation and ask you to dance. You decline – they seem too eager.


While trying to extricate yourself from the conversation, you spot a mysterious stranger through a sea of heads at the other end of the bar. They catch your eye but make no attempt to move forward. Your curiosity is piqued.


Okay – that’s not how it works in a classroom. In fact, the farther away you sit, the less interested I may be

Here’s what might be in a teacher’s air bubble as students take their seats on the first day. Choosing to sit as far as possible from the teacher may send a signal that you want to be left alone. Of course, classrooms have just so many seats so someone has to sit in the last row. The question is how many seats were available when you walked in, bypassed the teacher and a row of empty seats?  (see photo below – this is what it looks like from my perspective.)

Students in the front row do tend to be more eager, like the chatty person from the bar. Their seating choice says – I want to be part of the conversation. It also says – I’m smarter and I’m getting an A in this class. Can’t a teacher spot this strategy? There’s no mystery there, but the teacher has 75 minutes to kill and it’s a lot easier when people participate.

Suddenly, those front row students look pretty good.

Does sitting in the back row impact your grade? If participation is part of your grade and your location prevents you from offering your opinion, then the answer may be yes. Try moving up a few rows to see what happens. There’s no additional expense and the chairs are exactly the same. If your grade is simply an average of your test scores and you’re not missing anything crucial from your Siberian outpost, then so be it.

One thing to consider – sometimes hanging out with the eager A students rubs off on you.It’s not a permanent condition and your friends don’t have to know, but it may get you through a course.



New Jersey Housewife, Teresa Giudice, Goes To College

It’s a crazy scenario, but one worth pondering. What if the raven-haired reality TV star, Teresa Giudice, showed up in my Marketing class? 


ME:    “Teresa, what a surprise! You probably know more about branding than anyone in this marketing class. Is there anything you won’t put your name on?”


TERESA: “My tax return. Ha Ha.”


ME:  “Now that you mentioned it, I understand the felony count is up to 39.”


TERESA:  “Just like my age. Ha Ha.”


ME:   “Actually, I read you were 41.”


TERESA:  “What is this a math class?”


ME:  “Lucky for you,  it’s not an ethics class. I was, however, just about to cover cheating. We’d love your opinion on


TERESA:   “I told the lady at the register, no questions about Joe.”


ME:    “I think you mean the registrar.”


TERESA:   “Yeah, is that the lady that rejected my credit card?”


ME:   “No, that’s the bursar. It’s next to financial aid.”


TERESA:  “Financial aid! Now I remember why Joe sent me here.”