Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A class apart

The first week at university is what we call 'shopping week'. That's when we attend classes for all available subjects and then decide which ones we want to take. Once you take or drop a class after the first week, there is no turning back. So all the classes are packed in the first week.

Every time I see a packed class, I wish for a lot of students to drop the subject so the class won't be so crowded, and we could have more class discussions. It's also very difficult to get a place in a crowded class, because the fulltime students turn up early and use their bags to reserve seats for their friends, leaving us, the poor part-timers to rush into class breathless, only to find the only empty seat is either right at the back of the class, or you have to drag in a chair from somewhere else.

Our professors take great pains to 'sell' us their subject, by making sure the first lesson is both fun and interesting. They tell us only the good stuff about the subject, and hide the ugly stuff. After all, the class size shows their popularity.

And that's why I was so surprised when I attended Prof Z's class in the first week.

A little bit of background about this Prof Z first, which you can figure from the conversation I had with a friend.

Me - Hey! Had a good break?
He - Yeah, I did. Good to see you again this semester. How many subjects are you taking?
Me - Two. X and Y. Plus my dissertation.
He - Y??? You're taking Y???
Me - Yeah.
He - Y by Prof Z??
Me - Yeah.
He - Are you crazy???
Me - Errr...
He - WHY are you taking it?? Haven't you heard the horror stories??
Me - Errr... the subject is interesting, and I've heard he's a good teacher...
He - Yes, I know. But do you know how strict he is?
Me - Yeah, I have heard things about him...

- He locks the door after 6:30 pm so those who're late can't get in.
- Yes! Imagine people rushing for class after work... travelling to the end of the island for the class, and then having to go back!
- Even if you move an inch or fidget even a bit, he will stop mid-sentence and stare at you till you have settled down in your seat.
- He fumes at the sight of mobile phones.
- He flunked someone last year because she submitted her term paper late.
- He doesn't upload his lecture so you have to furiously take notes like a schoolkid.
- He expects you to write every word that leaves his mouth.
- He treats you like a child. Like a CHILD!

"Anyway, it's just shopping week", I said to my friend. "No harm checking out the class."

So we were there in the class 15 minutes before time. He walked in at 6:30 pm, and there was sudden silence in the classroom. Apparently everyone else had heard the same stories about him.

He did not do the usual 'Everybody, introduce yourself' routine or anything, but straightaway flashed a PPT slide listing his rules. His rules about 'chronic lateness' and 'chronic absence' and mobile phones and term papers and behaviour in class, and what not.

He started elaborating on each point.

"As you must already know, the doors will automatically lock at 6:30. If you can't make it by 6:30, I suggest you don't even make your way to class. Of course, chronic absence will be penalised too."

Horrified gasps from the part-timers.

"When you submit your term papers to me, I do not want to see any fancy binding, cover, or colourful appendices. In fact, don't even staple it. Just hold the pages together with a paper clip and pass the term paper to me."

Slight murmur in the class.

"You will automatically receive a zero-grade if your work is plagiarised from ANY source."

Silence in the class

"All URLs in the References section of your term paper must be operational, I'd like to check them."

Muffled gasps heard. Who checks the e-references in a term paper?

"The deadline to submit your term papers is 1st November. ALL term papers are due no later than 6:40 pm. Papers submitted after 6:41 pm will be penalized ten marks automatically. Papers submitted after 9:31 pm but before 5 pm the next day will be penalised twenty marks. Thereafter, each day's delay will result in a ten-mark deduction from the marks you earn."

GASP. Note the precision.

"I do not like mobile phones in the class."

And just as we took out our phones to put them on silent mode, his voice boomed. "Please do not put your phones on silent mode either. I want them switched OFF... and out of your sight. I know that many of you are at senior and important positions at your workplace and may need to answer calls in the middle of the class, but I do not like my class to be disrupted."

Of course, I understand you may have some family emergency for which you need to keep your phone switched on. In such cases, please approach me BEFORE the class. And I will tell you how your family can have access to you."

No one dared to ask how we would know if an emergency was about to come up. We just assumed he was talking only about emergencies we were aware of.

"The next thing I want to talk to you about is plagiarism." He said.

He told us how strict he was about plagiarism. When he was in the US, he got a PhD student in his final year thrown out of university for plagiariam. "He will never become a professor." He told the class, which was now almost crouching in fear.

"You may not be sure what exactly constitutes plagiarism. In order to ensure that you do not use that as an excuse, I will give you the name of this book and also tell you the page numbers, so you can understand what constitutes plagiarism."

He also showed us this sheet of paper that we have to submit as the cover page of our term papers. It is a signed declaration to state that we have read the the pages he recommended and that our term paper is not plagiarised in any way. The last sentence of the declaration reads "I hereby give consent to be adequately penalised for plagiarism." I was itching to say "Sir, this seems to assume that we have already plagiarised. Shouldn't there be an 'IF I plagiarise' clause somewhere in that statement?" but Ian asked me to shut up.

And thus went the first lesson, at the end of which everyone was looking at each other with questioning eyes. It was no doubt that the subject was excellent and he was incredibly organised, but his rules and discipline were something to think about.

Ian, of course, loved it.

And I think, so did I.

I figured that I could learn a lot from this class - not just about mass communication but also about discipline. (Though friends who know me well would roll their eyes. I'm already suffering from chronic discipline, you see.)

It was therefore no surprise that I did not drop the subject.

It was also not a surprise that when I turned up for class in the second week, I discovered that a third of the students had dropped the subject.

In the third week, he was teaching us about persuasion. I learnt some very interesting theories about the different types of persuasion. Message-based persuasion attempts to change attitude with the help of messages, leading to desired behaviour. An example would be anti-smoking campaigns. Behaviour-based persuasion attempts to change attitude by changing behaviour first. Examples would include free trial samples of products. You try them first and then you may end up liking them.

"Can anyone here give me any other example of behaviour-based persuasion?" He asked.

And this is what happens when you sit in the first row. The prof looked straight at me.

Before I knew it, Ian had raised my hand.

I am SO DEAD, I thought as he nodded to me.

"Sir... your banning mobile phones in the class... would that be an example of behaviour-based persuasion?" I managed.

"Hmmm... would you like to elaborate?"

"You are attempting to change behaviour by making it a rule that all mobile phones must be switched off... with the hope that once we start following it... our attitude will change... because err... we will realise that it is a much more productive class... without ringing mobile phones...?"

He gave me his typical steely look.

I'm deader than DEAD, I thought.

And that's when he did what we never thought he could do.

He smiled.



45 comments:

asterix said...

GOLD!
Now lemme go read the post :)

Iday said...

SILVER :D

PizzaDude said...

What a sweet story!! Hee Hee..
Oh Yeah, and BRONZE!!

perplexed kid said...

Is there any other metal for 4th?? how abt nickel?
comin to plagiarism...yea this is one of the terms many students dont know...it was good that ur prof forced the students to read the pages he suggested...otherwise any small unknowing mistake would be like living hell...thinkin how'd this guy know???...from my friend's exp

Sudeep said...

I like such strict professors .. i just hope i never take any of their subjects though :D

this Ian buddy of urs' is gud.. we also did this 'dusre-ka-haath-uthao' stuff in college :)

Anonymous said...

I know sayesha can never indulge in plagiarism. I remember how you tracked down namkeen and made her apologise. I'm sure your Prof Z would be forced to take your name when it comes to creative and innovative ideas. I truly admire your ability in coming up with cool and happy posts almost everyday. By the way your blog can be cited as an example for behaviour persuasion :) What say?

Keep up the good work girl. Needless to say I'm your admirer :)

-Lakshmi

Nirwa said...

I know! I have seen really stern professors smile when I have argued/debated with them. Few days back, in our college, we had moot court competition (you are supposed to act like an Advocate and present your case in front of a judge - as it happens in movies - but it is not as glamorous)

Now, for that competition, all those who had participated in debate competition in previous month, had to participate. So we all assumed that they would register our names on their own. The day after the registration ended, that prof came to us and asked us why we have not participated. We told him our "assumptions". :P :P He said, but for that, you have to register! :P

I smiled and said, "Sir, after all, we are Law students. We followed what you tell us to. Its all about interpretations" :D

:D It left him speechless! :D :D

Phew! long comment! fit to be a post! :D

Good one, girl! :D Keep it up!

The Smiling Girl said...

Oh poor baby... tum to is saal mar gayi.. If he is so strict on the timings, u gotta make sure you are there by 628 atleast, right??
Uff..

But then on the other hand, he sounds like one strict good professor.. Good for you in that!!

Iday said...

Stern professors are definitely manageable :)
I somehow end up getting close to the profs seen as strict and unfriendly by the other ppl :D

Ravi said...

because err... we will realise that it is a much more productive class

Even the most strict of the proffs have a chink in their armour. And Ian has found that chink in Z to perfection. What an ingenious way of complimenting on his class's productivity - do it in the form of a so called class participation. Wow!!

Anonymous said...

baap re!! itta bada post!! abhi toh lab hai, i wud read it later!

chaliye bye :)


satish

Ekta said...

way to go girl!!!
U won him over!!!
But hey...when u become a prof...pls dont keep such timelines and ruless...damn he sounds like a hitler!

Hari said...

Hmmm. I never got to live a disciplined life way back in college! Being a Mechanical Engineering student we had the onus of living up to our reputations ( Of being Unruly!!!) It may sound stupid, but we belived in it! Coming to final year mechanical engineering class was a nightmare for any lecturer.
In case we found a strict professor handling a class, we casually bunked it and enjoyed the shades of the trees near the canteen! :') I miss those days...

I guess we guys killed our IANs in their wombs...

PSV said...

Sayesha Kaur!
amazing post,absolutely amazing.I nominate you for the Booker prize of blogging.
inney mazedaar blogs...great job :-)

Bhaarat said...

COuld please pass on information about the book on Plagiarism definitions and the relevant pages therein.

I recall a Prof who used to use transparent sheet prez on OHP instead of PPT. After every slide he would pause and ask for questions and doubts. Then he would put up the sheet containing answers to the doubts/queries. He always ended the class in precise time alloted. Not even a minute more. I somehow love these Profs. In fact I did my dissertation under a very ruthlessly meticulous Prof. In case I ever teach i shall be someone similar to the one described by you.

Anonymous said...

wahh!! kya post tha yaar!! as i say-godgiri!

that reminded me of one of our professors. he was not that strict, bole toh he never closed his doors for anyone, but he exercised power, upto a great extent, over the class.
he was a great teacher indeed. toh, once we had this quiz(a written test!) of his, and like smart people we all sat at the back benches. He said that he knows that students tend to copy, and many will ignore, but its a serious issue for him, and if He found anyone doing anything unfair, he will straight give an FR to him. everyone was silent throughout the class after tht.

yes i capitalised 'h' because yes He was bhagwan. (He still is.).

Nimrat said...

Your writing is engrossing and I am reading your blog at 5:10 am in the morning. Good Job!

Bulbul Gopalani said...

hey, guess what... my coll has those exact same rules.. and it isnt bad. it is actually good. people think fun and discipline cannot go hand in hand, which is not true

Dreamcatcher said...

Lovely post. somehow profs like these inspire more.

rt said...

hey thats a nice post...well actually great I was planning to blog about one of my profs who r like this but wont smile in the end though..

saty said...

:) hmmm...you are a class apart...bet you were your english teacher's pet.

Princesse said...

Oh wow!! sounds like the set of rules which I issued at the start of my classes last year!! Ended up seeing MASS improvement in some of my weakest students and the class toppers were a class apart themselves.

I plan on doin the same this year too.. hope I get lotsa sayesha's n ians in my class this year!! :)...

Pradyot said...

We had a very similar prof. He would check e-ref, read books we ref., "discuss" the term paper if he thought we had taken help from someone and not understood the topic ourself, hated mobile phones, stopped if someone shifted in his/her seat... I not only took that course under him. I took another one next sem :D

Sakshi said...

I do a lot of this to my class. I think once students figure out that you are a good teacher and have their best interest at heart, the rules are followed more eaily. Though for the first 2 weeks, I just hear the groans and whispered complaints.

The Pirate said...

"deader" than dead.. LOL.. I bet u were. But miss Sash "Hermione" bhai pulled it off nicely at the end... :D

Anyway.. I was a back bencher throughout my engineering and never answered a damn question.. :D

starbreez said...

Typical Sayesha Story (TM) -- fear and anxiety, followed by a happy, glorious ending! ;)

singh said...

Ref. the locking-the-door policy - I thoroughly dislike professors like that - it shows no respect for the student.
I'm a part-timer too, and I usually have to work till 6 - my classes usually start at 6.
Between a choice of being ten minutes late for each class, and not attending a class at all for the semester, I would obviously choose to attend classes , and most professors agree with me.

And I'm talking about Senior Professors agreeing with me here - people who are entitled to being prima donnas and certainly don't need the extra student in their class. My take (and probably theirs) is being late or missing class has its own penalty - you miss valuable notes and explanations.

And I'm sorry, but my work has to come first. Not out of choice, but just because of the simple fact that it pays for my tuition. If that affects my studies, it'll be reflected in my grade, as simple as that.

The fact that this professor explicitly states rules that all (sensible) students know belittles his class. He should concentrate on teaching and leave his microcontrolling tendencies out of his profession.

PSV said...

Singh, well said. agree with your logic.

Prayank said...

gud post ... m also looking forward to the nxt terms shopping week starting nxt monday ...
hope u have a rocking time in course Y under Z ...

Lalit Singh said...

iski maa ki aankh.... Dubai se phone aayingaa to kaise legi tu class mein

ey bhai .... ghabrane ka nahi kya

Proff hoga apne ghar mein ... zyada bol bachan kare na to ek phone karne ka ... baaki apun dekh lega

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

You sure had a lot of guts to say that in the class... but yes, the profs are not all demons like we want to believe: they also know how to smile... you just have to cut the right Sayesha-style (poor?)joke!! :D

Grand... keep these coming!

Anonymous said...

fuck this shit....so boring....he smiled?? hahahaaha..that is so gay...

anand said...

ur post reminded me of one of the profs in our college..quite similar!

Sumana said...

nice post! My Physics prof was like that, a terror to all but a great teacher nevertheless!

rajeev said...

Cell phone in class led to this yesterday in Chandigarh: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1937592.cms

How do we know said...

Nice post, but no, I wouldn't take a class under someone who expects me to behave like that. It assumes that I an not self motivated enough.

RandomThoughts said...

That's why I love reading your posts...long & a conclusion which automatically brings a smile on my lips.

Great Answer! Now get set for more questions!!

Rashmi

Dev said...

I was hooked by this post... :D
Somehow, it's like a mystery story. What happens? A page-turner, or perhaps a page-scroller, here! :D

A+, says Dev, keep up the good work. If only your dissertation was this easy to grade... ;)

Sayesha said...

#Asterix,
Gaayab after gold? :O

#Iday,
Sheesh! You jumped into the bandwagon too eh? :D

#Pizzadude,
:)

#Perplexed kid,
Yeah, fourth place creates his/her own medal! :P

#Sudeep,
Ian ki tarafdari?? Woh bhi mere saamne? X-(
Only I can do his tarafdaari :P

#Lakshmi,
Wow, now you're making me blush. Thanks! :)

#Nirwa,
Hahaha! Shabash babe! :)

#Smiling Girl,
Arre I reach at 6:15 sharp! :P

#Iday,
Hahaha! Looks like your Ian is also a strong one :)

#Ravi,
Hahahaha! :D

#Satish,
:O

#Ekta,
Me? Become a profff??? Neverrrr! :O

#Hari,
Mech engg guys have the same reputation in every country, don't they? ;)

#PSV,
Thanks! :)
ps: Yeh Kaur Kaur kya laga rakha hai bhai? :O

#Bhaarat,
It's the American American Psychological Association's publication manual (5th ed). Can't remember the page numbers now.

Wow, your prof sounds ultra organised! :)

#Anonymous,
Bhagwanji ki jai ho! :)

#Nimrat,
Welcome to Sayeshaz! Thanks for commenting :)

#Bulbul,
Hey, welcome back to Sayeshaz! :)

//people think fun and discipline cannot go hand in hand, which is not true

Hear hear! :)

#Dreamcatcher,
Couldn't agree more :)

#RT,
Hahaha! :D

#Saty,
Hehehe... I was every teacher's pet in school... uni mein na jaane kya hoga! :/

#Princesse,
Wow I can't imagine you all strict and stuff! :P

#Pradyot,
Hahaha! Well done! :)

#Sakshi,
Way to go, girl! :)

#Pirate,
//Anyway.. I was a back bencher throughout my engineering and never answered a damn question.. :D

Me too!! :P

#Starbreez,
Wow, you're here after ages man! :)
Thanks for remembering me! :)

#Singh,
I guess different profs have different styles and personally if the end results are good, I don't mind the extra bit of discipline :)

#Prayank,
Thanks :)

#Lalit,
Hahahaha! Theek hai theek hai... apun yaad karega tere ko... :D

#Sudipta,
Eeeesh! I dunno if you complimented me or insulted me, but thanks anyway :P

#Anonymous,
You say it like being gay is a bad thing. And what's wrong with smiling anyway? If everyone who smiles is gay, I guess you're the only straight person in the world :)

#Anand,
Every college has one of these, isn't it? :)

#Sumana,
:)

#Rajeev,
Sheesh! Yeh aajkal ke students! :@

#How do we know,
//It assumes that I an not self motivated enough.

Well, some people aren't. I guess they could do with a little push :)

#Rashmi,
Thanks! :)

#Dev,
LOL @ page-scroller! :P
Thanks Dev, tere muh mein low fat ghee and artificial sweetener! :D
ps: Mere disseration ke liye achhi achhi wishes karna ok? :P

Restless Rain said...

Hey I agree fully! Give me strict professors anytime! At least it shows they care and believe passionately about the subject they are teaching.... Although the lock doors thingy is abit much...

Iday said...

//You jumped into the bandwagon too eh?
Apun ko bhi metal milna chaahiye naa?!?! Bahut Zaroorath hai :( Will cver some of my apping cost :P

//Looks like your Ian is also a strong one!
There is no need for an Ian in my case. I get lost in thought/sleep and raise my hands without any reason :D
But no - i dont handle it as well as u did. I guess all my profs appreciate the comic relief i offer :D

The Lonely Traveller said...

AWESOME!!!!
I have nothing more to add.

;-)

Rebellion said...

hehehahahaha.. Tooo good Sash :D

He smiled?? Hitler ko smile karna bhi aata hai??? :P

I absolutely love your convos with IAN yaar, he's sooooo cute & so are you :D

Keep writing, loved reading it dear :)

Take care,
Aarti

Anonymous said...

"- Yes! Imagine people rushing for class after work... travelling to the end of the island for the class, and then having to go back!"

thank god for small mercies. what if this class were offered smack dab in the middle of greenland or - heaven forbid - antarctica!

- s.b.

Bivas said...

nice post. reminded me of a prof in my instt. He teaches financial mgmt. thr and is damn good. Tough part r his rules.
-everyone in his class is expected to sit at the same place in every class. U do get to decide the place in the first class though.
-Strictly against plagiarism.
-u shud hv ur fundamentals right else do not open ur mouth...he is sure to kill u with his cross questioning.
-and oh yes he has this manual, which u r supposed to know by heart...it lists all the do's and dont's for the course.
The best part is that in his last class of the term he gives a speech on life and being a good human being!!! And that sure is inspiring. His first name initial is B and in his own words he says, "I'm not an SOB, I'm THE SOB...Sweet Old B" :-)