The awkward five minutes

Feb 14 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

I can't stand being late. Hate it. If something starts in 10 minutes and is a 5 minute walk, I'm leaving now. Because of that, I often leave 20 minutes early to get to my class, which is 10 minutes across campus. I have to set up my computer, which kills some time, but I am often left with 5 or so minutes before class, Standing in front of the room while the students file in and get things sorted.

I actually find this time pretty awkward. In a smaller class I can shoot the shit with some of the students, despite the mild look of horror they have at being chatted with by their professor. The larger classes are worse though, since I don't really know many of the student's names at this point in the semester. They chat amongst themselves and I... do what?

I find I wander a bit and maybe even hit the bathroom, or read the posters in the hallway for the tenth time. Sometimes I'll look through the preview thumbnails of the slides just for the hell of it, but I always feel completely unnatural up there. Waiting. If speaking publicly made me nervous, I'm sure this time would be excruciating rather than just merely awkward.

Despite this, I can't bring myself to leave later. So what do other people do with their pre-class limbo?

23 responses so far

  • I answer quick questions from students. I told them that after I have my computer setup, they are free at ask me questions, and enough do to kill the time.

  • I would usually go outside and pace up and down the hallway and look at posters that I had already looked at 100 times. I can't stand being late and unprepared so I guess this is the cost of punctuality.

  • WhizBANG! says:

    I read stuff on my Blackberry before the first lecture. Usually someone wants to ask a question by the second one and that fills the time.

  • Sideshow Bill says:

    I played music, usually something that I like, but occasionally, requests. I also gave attendance quizzes with such enlightening bonus questions as, "Who's your favorite band and why don't they deserve to be thrown in the trash?" It's a great way to discover and share music. (and I taught chemistry) But that 5 minutes before class is filled, everyone is awake, mission accomplished. (Of course setting up great demos was also going on as well)

  • ScienceGeek says:

    Like prodigal academic, I answer student questions b/f class. In case there are none, I bring a research paper. This sets a good example, I think. But I make sure students feel comfortable interrupting my reading to ask questions by being positive when they do.

  • JaneB says:

    There are a variety of suggestions over at College Misery, where someone else asked the same question: here

  • Namnezia says:

    I usually just sit in the front row and drink my coffee. Sometimes students will come up for questions. Other times I chat with the TA's. Mainly I just sit.

  • RM says:

    Like Sideshow Bill I also play music as it changes the mood/feel of the beginning of class, and makes for interesting conversations with students. Also, occasionally they start dancing in their seats, which is always entertaining.

  • brooksphd says:

    Tap dance, or sing raucously.

  • Cherish says:

    My favorite math professor would bring a stereo and play Dixieland jazz before his classes. I asked him about this one time, wondering if he was trying to use music to stimulate our brains or something. After he stopped laughing, he said it was to encourage students to talk a bit before class so that they felt more comfortable participating in class discussions.

  • Karen says:

    I can think of two professors who've perfected the art of taking just enough time to set up their computers. (They're good at fielding questions while doing it, too.) But if they arrive five minutes before class, somehow it takes all five minutes to set up; if they arrive two minutes before class, then two minutes is enough. Class always starts on time.

  • becca says:

    you should play they might be giants youtube videos 😛

  • Jason says:

    I was thinking about showing a little video before each class too - not that it has to be that relavent to the lecture but just a random treat for people who get there early. TMBG could be a fun icebreaker.

  • physioprof says:

    I force conversation on unwilling students sitting near the front.

  • gerty-z says:

    I had never really considered this...but I bet I would just sit there and drink coffee. Though now I'm considering playing some music. Probably something weird to get folks talking. TMBG youtube is another good option, though!

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I had a class I did not like. i fell into the habit of showing up maybe two or three minutes late. There was considerable negative comment on this is the student evaluations. I also read a study which said the the professor arriving five minutes early, and doing whatever, led to better class performance. So I routinely came to class early, and spent time chatting with students (this was before computers). It did seem to me like a good thing to do.

  • CoR says:

    I tend to talk to unsuspecting students. And shy students. I pick on them the most. Otherwise, I would suggest an iPhone and Angry Birds.

  • Nathan says:

    You ugly lad! What is your favorite football team? It better start with EAGLES!!!111!!!!!

  • drugmonkey says:


  • proflikesubstance says:

    Knowing my luck I would play a YouTube video that would end while I am across the room and the next video that came up would be something that would get me fired. I'll check out the sound system in the room, though.

    Maybe I could take DM's suggestion and kick it up a notch by spending the time in an animated conversation with my laser pointer.

  • fcs says:

    Usually I just quietly go over my notes. Sometimes I do what Namnezia does and sit in the front row of the room as though I too were coming to listen to me lecture. (But I have the slides up, so it's clear things will be happening soon).

    I've tried the chit chat with the students thing, but most of mine seem to be more comfortable with silence. Since I am about to talk for an hour straight I am all too happy to indulge them.

  • SamW says:

    I know one lecturer who'd happily just talk at the class while setting up. He's a zoology lecturer so it'd be stuff like "X animal does Z, isn't that cool? Did you guys see that program on channel Y the other day? You should, it has some great stuff about animal W."

    You'd have to be pretty confident to play music around here because students would be very taken aback and maybe think you were a little creepy or maybe trying too hard to be their friend. Don't try too hard.

  • Psyc Girl says:

    I fiddle on my laptop and pretend to be doing important professor stuff. LIke checking Facebook...

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