Selfish beyond belief

Much to my disgust, I got really angry in class Thursday. As in so many contexts, anger in the classroom does not work. But I was seriously pissed. I should not have lost it, but I did. Twice.

The problem is the folk talking at the back. They talk despite my exhortations not to. They talk when I tell them I am getting texts from their classmates begging me to stop them. They talk when I tell them of people in past years who have given up the class because of the talking. And so the question: what sort of person deliberately choses to interfere with other people’s education? What can be so important to talk about that it’s worth the ire and even hatred of your class mates? What sort of person keeps talking after I’ve yelled all that at them?

I’ve had problems in previous years (1, 2), but never lost my cool before. Losing my cool is not good. It completely destroys my concentration, and worse, it poisons the class atmosphere. A post to the comment wall:  You just scared the shit out of me. I don’t like when you’re upset. Neither do I.

In desperation, I asked the class to make suggestions on what I should do. A sample of responses:

  • I have an idea. Maybe we can spend a class teaching people how to whisper correctly? 
  • I think walking up and calling individual people out like you did is a great strategy because that would be so embarrassing and they deserve that
  • I personally think you walking up to people is the most effective because it calls them out in front of the whole class and I would be embarrassed
  • corporal punishment. That’s how you deal with talking.
  • the girls talking are the KD girls and their men. If they’re talking they’re obviously not here to learn. Kick them out!
  • you should ask people to text in the color shirt / description of the talking people and then go kick them out
  • the people who are bothered by it should go sit in front
  • give them ebola
  • duct tape

I am continuously reminded by the outstanding efforts, questions, dignity and humor of students striving to make the most of the class that the me-me-me-entitlement mentality is actually very rare. But sadly it is present. The issue is one of simple civility. Science is a civilizing enterprise. Universities should be civilizing places. I hate that a selfish few ruin the class room. I also hate that they make me so angry. So uncivilized.

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