October 21, 2007

Student Demands

On Thursday afternoon, a couple of hours before my advertised office hours, an email from a student arrived. He wanted to see me desperately urgently to get some forms signed. Some of the forms probably are urgent. It's so urgent that he said he URGENTLY needs to speak to me first thing on Monday morning. This isn't phrased in the kind of way that merely wonders whether I might be available on Monday morning, oh no, this is phrased with the kind of words that indicates he damn well expects me to be there on Monday morning for him at his convenience. Maybe he's not expecting that I jump to his every click of the fingers, but certainly the thought that I might not be available on Monday morning has not entered his head.

I checked his timetable. Sure enough, there were classes scheduled on Friday. I guess he wasn't planning to attend his Friday classes, otherwise why wouldn't he have asked me for an appointment just before or after his class?

So let me get this straight: he thinks this request is not urgent enough that he put aside whatever he's busy doing on Thursday afternoon during my office hours and whilst he bunks off from Friday classes, but it IS urgent enough that I have to drop whatever important thing I might be doing on Monday morning and see him FIRST THING.

I wonder if it ever occurs to him what a huge disrespect he's showing to a lecturer's time, when he behaves like that, creating the impression that he thinks his time is so much more valuable than mine?

Some students are respectful of a lecturer's time and don't assume we're available any time they want us to be, but others are exactly like this one. They want us available whenever it's convenient to them. They knock on our doors whenever they happen to be passing by, despite clearly advertised office hours and instructions to arrange an appointment at other times, and despite the largest most prominent "DO NOT DISTURB" notices. Then, when they are told that the lecturer isn't available, they proceed to whine and protest and demand time right then and there irrespective of who or what else they might be interrupting and how big or small their interruption is. I am not a milksop by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I find that in person, many students will continue their protesting and demands until you forcibly eject them. Their "It's only a quick query" inevitably turns out to be much longer to answer.

And there's never a "sorry for disturbing you". Don't tell me it's my fault for letting myself be disturbed in the first place. If I have a meeting in my office, a student knocking on the door can hear voices, and won't go away, they'll knock and knock and the meeting is already disturbed. I have to answer the door in order to tell them to go away (which I do so very politely), and it is then when they start in with the protesting that "It's only a quick query", and they don't accept it when you tell them that you are busy and in a meeting and cannot talk to them now, and to come back in your office hours or email for an appointment. No, they want to see you NOW and now they can actually see your face at the door, they are even more determined, They carry on until either you shout at them (which I try not to do) or you shut the door carefully and firmly in their face.

It's very exasperating. I don't know what causes the lack of respect at all. I checked my backside, and there's definitely no label on it saying "Kick me".


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