Dr. Who? The Mysterious Case of Teacher Name Amnesia

“So, who do you have for Marketing?”

“I don’t know. Some lady. She’s kinda short with blondish hair.”

“Is it easy?”


“Yeh, as long as you get the notes. She gives a lot of notes.”


 “Okay, maybe I’ll take her. I just don’t want Professor Staff.”

There’s so much to remember every semester. One textbook alone weighs about 5 pounds. Multiply that by 5 classes and it’s no mystery you can’t remember your teachers’ names. Isn’t this why the generic title “Prof” was invented? And let’s face it – is it really necessary to remember names for a bunch of people you’ll only know for 15 weeks? They seem to be in the classroom at the exact time the class starts and if you raise your hand, they call on you. They pass out tests and return stuff with a lot of red marks. Assuming the work gets done, a final grade will materialize on your transcript. It’s not like there’s extra credit for remembering a teacher’s name.

Here’s a quick test.  How many of your teachers’ names can you remember? Whoops, time is up.

Students never remember my name. Unless I experience an adult growth spurt or have an uncontrollable urge to dye my hair orange, I think I’ll always be the ‘kinda short one with blondish hair’.

That being said, I am amazed at the number of students who can’t remember my name when it’s really important. Specifically, when a favor is sought – like an extension. To ask for an extension, you might have to find my office. To find my office, you need my name.  There’s always email but last time I looked my email wasn’t kindashortblondish@school.edu.  You could call me, but apparently remembering my name triggers Math brain freeze. Too bad we’re not Facebook friends but then again – friends know each other’s names.

Hey – isn’t all the contact information on the syllabus?

Right, the dog ate it.

The Mysteries of Gravity – Falling off a chair and other mysterious class disruptions

I had a student fall off a chair in class the other day. To be fair, it was a computer chair with wheels and the floor is brand new high grade linoleum. On top of that, the lecture was insanely energizing causing excessive body movement along the lines of a religious revival. Needless to say, we all shared a special moment as the student rolled aimlessly across the floor.

Handling classroom disruptions on a college level is always a bit of challenge because you can’t yell like a burnt out kindergarten teacher. We’re all adults and everyone knows that in a room full people it takes a group effort to maintain a sense of decorum. Yet, mysteriously something goes awry. How about a bird flapping into the class, a swarm of angry bees, a squirrel caught in the ceiling duct, a power outage, a fist fight or just the generic student who has had a really bad day and loses control.

What goes on in my head when faced with the happenings above, all of which have actually occurred in my classroom? My first thought is safety – my own which is why I typically run for the door.  Not true – My first action is to make sure everyone is safe and calm. Next, I’m immediately looking for the 3 or 4 students who have already shown leadership skills and I’ll typically ask them to help. If the distraction can easily be resolved, my next step is to get the class back on track. Unfortunately, that is almost impossible especially after outrunning the angry bee swarm.

So what happened with the student who fell off the chair? I didn’t follow any of the steps above.  We all kind of laughed. I don’t even think anyone helped him up. It was Friday –we were all tired.

If you’ve had a class disruption, please share!





The Mysterious Game of Musical Chairs (Part II)

Here’s a blog about a blog  (See earlier The Mystery Game of Musical Chairs). Is there such a thing as the front row in an on-line class? As promised, here’s what I’m thinking when I teach an on-line.

Teaching on-line is like wearing a blind fold.  You have no idea who is in the room which can be a little mysterious.  Try turning out the lights and give a 5 minute speech in the dark. You get the idea.

It makes a difference when students reach out before the class starts or during the first week by sending an email introducing themselves to the teacher. It creates an impression that the student is eager and ready to start learning.  So, is there a virtual front? My air bubble says YES.

If you’re wondering what goes on in a teacher’s head, please post suggested topics here.

The Mysterious Missing Week – Or Two

Did you ever wake up and just not want to go to class? Let me rephrase the question. Did you ever wake up and want to go to class? A jump out of bed type of morning that sends you jogging to the cafeteria for breakfast while high fiving the comatose cafeteria lady who reads your meal card?  

The reality is that most students don’t act on their laziness for anymore than a day. The problem occurs when the impulse to stay in bed lasts a week or worse, two. At some point you may actually forget you were enrolled in college until the phone rings. It’s your mom. You lie about your current state of depravity but the guilt seeps in. A pair of rumpled sweats crammed in the bed sheets seems clean enough. You dress and head to class. Your two-week vacation is officially over.

Here’s the mystery. Does your teacher realize you’ve been missing?  If it’s not a 200-person lecture course then the answer is absolutely yes. Let’s be real. If you don’t have a valid excuse (and you don’t), you probably haven’t emailed the teacher with an explanation.  Instead, you may attempt to make the teacher think you’ve been in class. How? By making your presence in class known. As in – if I answer every question, it will appear as I’ve been here the whole time. 

Unfortunately, your ‘let me get noticed’ strategy is doing just the opposite. It’s high-lighting your mini vacation. In fact, your teacher’s air bubble goes something like this.  “Mystery solved! You’re the one who has been out for two weeks.”

Your best bet is to sit quietly in class without drawing undue attention to your absence. At the end of class, don’t slink out the door.  Approach your teacher and tell them you’re getting notes from a classmate. Don’t ask if you’ve missed a lot. Of course you have, but you’re well rested – so get working.

If you’ve got a mysterious class disappearance story or a solid cover up strategy, please post here.


The Mystery Game of Musical Chairs

The Mystery Game of Musical Chairs

    “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 front and center 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.  Here’s what might be in the teacher’s air bubble.  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 then plunked down with your back against the chipped cinderblock wall.

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.

Here’s a question – From a student’s perspective, is there an equivalent of ‘sitting in the front row’ in an on-line class?