Don't bother asking, I'll answer them now

Jan 31 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

Every semester I hear a lot of the same questions from students. It gets a bit tiresome answering the same questions all the time, so I thought I would use this venue to write out the answers and forward them along to my classes.

Q1. Will this material be on the exam?

Excellent question! Actually, I like nothing better than standing in front of you and blathering on about my own personal ideological concepts, with little to no relation to the course material. Did you wonder why we are taking a class period next week to discuss my tax return? Now you know. Feel free to ignore all this lecture material I've spent a few years refining, it's all fluff.

Q2. Do I need to buy the book for the class?

It turns out that I get an enormous kick back from publishers for requiring you to buy the paperback version of a three-year-old book that I also sent you a cheaper ebook link for. The book isn't at all helpful for clarifying concepts discussed in class or studying, I just want all the kick back dough.

Q3. Is coming to class important?

No no, see Q1 for details. It's not like most of my lectures are images that I talk through or anything. I'm just spewing whatever comes into my head.

Q4. Is it okay if I hand that assignment in late?

Hey, whenever you want sport. All that text in the syllabus about points deducted each late day was just me pandering to the Admin request that we take a tough stance on late work. I'm not going to read it anyway!

Q5. Why is the classroom always locked

Its not. What appears to be conceptually difficult is that the door handle does not turn. However, the minor application of force on said door opens it rather easily. Although it is a fascinating psychological experiment to watch a class of students stymied by their concept of how a door should work, I can assure that I have no magical powers and you watch me just push the door open everyday.

Any other questions, class?

18 responses so far

  • HennaHonu says:

    I lol'd ;] The wonders of undergraduate minds...

  • Mikael says:

    Take a look at this for another perspective

  • anon says:

    Answer to Q1: Well, since you mention it, yes, this material will be on the exam. Thanks for bringing it up and reminding me that it SHOULD and WILL be on the exam.

  • odyssey says:

    I start all courses by telling the students that if they ask if something will on the exam it most definitely will be. After that they tend not to ask.

  • My favorite conversation every semester ...

    Student: Will you provide a study guide for the exam?

    Me: No.

    Student: So what will be on the exam?

    Me: Everything.

    Student: Can you be more specific?

    Me: Everything we've covered in this course up until the minute the exam is given.

  • Mac says:

    Argh - were we ever like this? Not sure for anyone else but for myself I think not - which isn't that I was an angel - did all the readings, never missed a class, was never hung-over in class (or maybe just still a little drunk from the night before - so sorry 8am prof freshman year, really I am), etc. - there are times I would like to go back and kick my own undergrad butt. However, I would never, ever have thought of asking these questions! I at least felt it was important for me to try and appear serious and focused and to not ask questions that showed I might be trying to skate by. As for late work - it happened for good and bad reasons and I took responsibility for it. Maybe I just becoming old and curmudgeonly but it's not the foolish behavior that bothers me (being 19 seems to make this a necessity) it's that they never seem to think it's worth hiding that behavior or imagine that I might judge it. What will they do with a boss? Sigh - I think I am a curmudgeon.

  • TheGrinch says:


    Quite right! I too had some of these questions at some point when I was an undergrad student, but I never dared ask them out. Perhaps there may have been the reluctance to make a fool of myself infront of everyone. But at the end of the day, I (and almost everyone) knew that being a good student was always going to be in my interest even though sometimes it required a resolve to go against the instinct. Sure, there were slackers but they never tried to out themselves in the class by asking these questions.

    I think there is a definite shift in the attitude with more and more students now truly believe that they deserve the degree without the hard work—this sense of entitlement was quite low when I was undergrad. There are still gems (and thank god for that!), but now students are learning to assert themselves as customers seeking to buy the degrees.

    Either that or we all are becoming crusty old d00ds who think young ones are always slackers.

    what Prof asks in the class

  • scicurious says:

    Student: Will this be on the exam?
    Me: (evil grin) It will NOW...

  • O.R. Pagan says:

    Extra credit, you forgot about the extra credit!!!!!!! (:-).....

  • Another Prof says:

    My response to #1 is: "Well, there is only one way to find out...."

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Damn! How could I miss "Will there be extra credit?" A: Why don't you concentrate on actually doing the "regular" credit.

  • O.R. Pagan says:

    Overmthe years I have compiled a list of frequenty asked questions that I now include in all my syllabi.... Do you mind if I post it here? It is not very long.....

  • [...] (and More Brandy Please**) for Charles Murray Someone make Charles Murray just choose already Don’t bother asking, I’ll answer them now (funny) David Brooks Doesn’t Want People to Focus on the 1 Percent Coronary Capitalism The High [...]

  • Walt Garage says:

    Please get out of the teaching profession immediately, if this is how you feel about your students.

  • Big Blue says:

    Um...just a point on Q2, "Do we have to buy the book?"

    The translation of this question may in many cases be, "will this book be made available in the library reference section?" Some universities, out of sensitivity to the costs of schooling and the frequent inadequacy of scholarship money, will buy a few copies of regularly-used texts and put them in the reference section, where they may not be checked out but can be read by students. This is especially helpful to all the students if, for example, the Huge Mega Bookstore/Major Contract Bookstore fails to order sufficient copies in a timely fashion, or if perhaps they order the incorrect ISBN--issues which are not at all uncommon, sadly.

    Please be aware that work study checks often arrive later in the semester than the bookstore will bother to keep copies of your text on the shelves, that one semester's worth of books cost about two months' worth of part-time work study pay (or more in STEM courses), and that financial aid departments which offer books/supplies assistance to poor students often require these things to be purchased via the university bookstore rather than Amazon.

  • Adjunctorium says:

    "Professor Bltzflk, I miss anything important last Tuesday?"

    "Why no, my child. Of course not! The only reason I talk is to exercise my jaws."

  • Megan Pledger says:

    I have this feeling that there is some first year helpful hints list "out there" saying something like -
    "Don't be a faceless statistic. Make yourself known to your instructors early by asking a question after the very first lecture. They are more likely to look on you sympathetically later if you shown yourself to be interested in their course."

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