I’m always going to associate this class with feelings of sweatiness and frustration. It’s in the middle of the day, and the lecture always drags on and on, seemingly for the sole purpose of letting the attendance sheet make its way all the way around the room. We copy phrases from Powerpoint slides, mindlessly, word-for-word, so we can spit them back out during the final. Here’s an example of one of the slides from last week:
While we copy, the professor wanders around the lecture hall, preaching. His words are utterly unrelated to the slides we’re copying; instead he talks about whether we should take a break midway through class or about how far away the ocean is. Each slide stays up long after we’re done copying it, while the professor tells meaningless stories. Oh how I yearn for salvation, for the professor to say, “Next slide!”
There’s never an indication of when the lecture will be over. It’s scheduled 12:25-2:55 today (AND 3:00 to 5:30 tomorrow aaaaghgh), but the professor always makes his entrance at least 20 minutes late, and after that any amount of time will be spent on meaningless and irrelevant topics. Sometimes the lecture (once it gets started) lasts 45 minutes, sometimes 2 hours.
To survive this class, I have to totally disconnect myself from my desire to accomplish something during class and just be passive, doing my best not to awaken my brain. If I actually think about how much time we’re wasting I’m going to have to leave.
Classes like this aren’t unusual here. Two of my nine classes are actually reliable- they’ll happen every time they’re scheduled and on time. Four more of my classes will probably happen, just not on time, and for the remaining three it’s a surprise if the professor shows up at all.
This is really discouraging. The way I see it, professors and students both enter a contract. The professor is paid to teach, and in exchange he’s on time, reliable, accessible, and intellectually stimulating. The students want to learn, so they pay to take the class, attend lectures, and do the reading and assignments. If the professor doesn’t hold up his end of the bargain, the contract is breached and students have every right to react, namely by skipping class and finding something better to do. It’s just like going to the market to buy fruit- I’m not going to let someone sell me a mango with maggots in it.
Sometimes I think the frequent, outrageous breaches of contract are intolerable, but it’s usually nice when class is canceled. The fact that it happens so often is just one of many things different about classes here:
- If a professor’s cell phone rings during his lecture, he will simply answer and stand in front of the class to carry out his conversation. Sometimes when my Enzymology professor gets a call, he’ll argue with the person on the other end of the line about how busy he is.
- Lots of professors encourage feedback from the class, in the form of shouts to respond to his statements or questions. For example, the professor asks, “Are you tired?” and the students yell “YES!” or “NOOO!” He asks, “Is there time left?” and the students yell “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” In one of my classes, we did presentations in groups of ten. Part of the grade was how professional we looked, but only one group member actually did the presentation. When it was time for your group to go, you simply stood up at the front of the classroom with your nine colleagues while the professor asked the class, “Do they look nice?” and the class shouted things like “Very fresh!” or “They look dirty.” Then, nine of the ten group members went back to their seats and one person stayed at the front of the room to present the information.
- It’s culturally important to respect elders. So professors can preach and “lecture” in the literal sense, scolding students for looking out the window or looking listless. The students just have to take it.
- Information about assignments, reading materials, or changes to the class schedule is disseminated by word of mouth. This takes a lot of getting used to, and it seemed really chaotic at first. But it also fosters a sense of solidarity and collaboration among students (wholly different from the outright cheating I often encountered in Switzerland), which I really appreciate.
Quote from today: “I saw a lady on campus yesterday and I was wondering if her feet could bear her weight. She was so thin. If she were an animal, I would not go for her. Avoid buying emaciated animals.” -My Animal Production professor