Want to Stress Out Your Students?

Try some of these “Fun things” !

While looking for jokes online, I found a list entitled “50 Fun Things For Professors To Do.”  I didn’t think too many of them were worthy of this Blog, though I did have to chuckle at a few.  Then I started to think.  As absurd as these “Fun Things” were, it occurred to me that some of them portrayed the way our students perceive us.  You know what they say; a joke is funny because there is usually a bit of truth in it.

College students don’t always see us as we see ourselves.  They look at us through a variety of lenses, and some of those lenses are pretty foggy.  Ask yourself if it is even remotely possibility that, as Clark Griswold* might put it, maybe just one “cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, hopeless, heartless, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed” student thinks of you as if you:

  • wore a hood with one eyehole and periodically made strange gurgling noises; or
  • wore a pointed Kaiser helmet and a monocle and carried a riding crop; or
  • wore mirrored sunglasses and spoke only in Turkish, ignoring all questions; or
  • showed a video on medieval torture implements to your calculus class, and giggled throughout it; or
  • picked out random students, asked them questions, timed their responses with a stop watch, and recorded their times in your grade book while muttering “tsk tsk”; or
  • walked silently over to a student who asked a question, handed him your piece of chalk, and asked, “Would YOU like to give the lecture, Mr. Smartypants?”; or
  • announced, “you’ll need this,” and wrote the suicide prevention hotline number on the board; or
  • announced that last year’s students have almost finished their class projects; or
  • told your math students that they must do all their work in a base 11 number system, use a complicated symbol you’ve named after yourself in place of the number 10, and threatened to fail students who don’t use it; or
  • jogged into class, rips the textbook in half, and screams, “Are you pumped? ARE YOU PUMPED? I CAN’T HEEEEEEAR YOU!”

Time for a Reality Check

Humor is something that often helps us to remember.  I hope this bit of humor will help you to always be mindful of this point.  No matter how wrong your students may be about you, if they are stressed they are not ready to learn.  Forget any of those teachable moments you were hoping for.

Unless you are in the 99th percentile of college instructors, you will have a student or two who thinks of you in some very negative terms.  Remember, teaching college students is no Christmas Vacation. 😉

* Sorry Clark, but I had to leave out a couple of your descriptors.  Hope you don’t mind being slightly misquoted.

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted March 19, 2010


About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC).

My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students.

After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.


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