Obesely Speaking

The brain and obesity

Good Teachers Do Not Take Attendance

Bully teachers and cowardly students: America's real education problem

Again, compulsive overeating is about living issues more than eating issues, so this post addresses a common living issue compulsive overeaters face: education. I am always amazed that students at the University level do not connect these dots: you pay to go to a university. Therefore, the University is a service provider.  The teacher is a part of the service they provide. Why in the world would a student allow a teacher to boss them around? The teacher is not paying the student to be there. The student is paying to be there.  Their fees and tuition go towards the professors’ salaries and benefits. The teachers work for the students, therefore, teachers: check the ego, the attitude and the need to be grandiose at the door—end of story. You are at work, so lick your wounds on your own time.   Yet, I continue to hear these ridiculous stories, such as a professor not allowing students to use their laptops during a lecture because many of the students go on Facebook, or cruise the Internet instead of listening to the lecture.  So what if they are?  That means one of two things.

To The Teacher

If students are tuning out, you are not a competent lecturer.  You cannot hold your students attention. Knowing the subject matter is not enough.  You have to be able to present it in an interesting fashion.  If you cannot do that, write your alma mater and ask for a refund. Use that money to get some training in public speaking.  Alternatively, you can find work that you are capable of doing proficiently.  You might also want to send a note to the Registrar suggesting they reimburse your students.  However, under no circumstance do you have the right to make your inadequacies your students’ problem.  They paid for something that you cannot deliver, that is not their fault.  In addition, they purchased that time, not you; you have no right to tell them what they can do with their purchase. 

Random State School
To The Student

If you are tuning out because the teacher is boring, you are not getting what you paid for. Why would you pay for something you are not getting? Learning is exciting. If it is not, then something is wrong. You would no go to a coffee shop that only filled the cup half full of coffee.  Time is the most precious resource.  Why would you waste your most precious resource? You would not throw money on the street. Money is not nearly as precious as time is.  You can always get more money.  You cannot win, steal, beg, borrow, or earn more time.  Perhaps, you just do not want to learn a particular subject at this time. Then you should be some place else.  You would not wear a biohazard suit to a lap dance.  Likewise, why would you pay for an education and then try not to get it? 


College Is Not High School

If you take a class, and you choose not to attend, that is your business. Taking attendance in college is ridiculous. When I was an undergrad at Michigan, I used to show up and get the syllabus, then show up for the mid-term and the final, or to hand my papers in. I graduated summa cum laude. Did I miss something by not attending lectures?  Of course I did. However, that was where I was at the time, and what I needed to do. The world is an institution of higher learning, every place is a classroom and a lecture is always in progress; attend lectures in life when you are available to listen. A serious teacher will never take attendance.  Nor, does he or she make petty ego-driven rules like "no laptops or texting during class." 

I have taught classes. I have never had any problem with any of my students playing on their laptops and texting during my lectures because I delivered as a teacher.  They never came late and they never left early. They did not want to miss a word I had to say. There are three parts to teaching: understanding the subject matter, presenting the subject in an organized, consumable manner, and making it fun and interesting.  If you cannot do all three, then you are not suited to teach. Too many people are calling themselves teachers when they are really just intellectually tepid, tyrannical, bullies.

University of Michigan Classroom
However, the onus is on the student to dispense of academic tyranny. The more reputable the institution is the fewer silly rules they have. No college student should require micromanagement. It discourages intellectual growth. Michigan never took attendance. They judged academic performance not propensity for subservience and obedience. Of course, Michigan graduates leaders, not followers.  Rather than classroom attendance, it concerned itself with cutting-edge research, state-of-the-art facilities, and promoting a stimulating environment populated with brilliant minds.   Institutions, such as Michigan, (Stanford, Cal, the Ivies etc.) are not pedantic because they do not have anything to prove. Conversely, lesser institutions are like the people in radio, versus the people in television and film. Radio people are very vicious because the prizes are small.  The prizes are small because their minds are small.  Life has many prizes, not all of them come with award ceremonies and trophies.

University of Michigan Law School Lecture
Not everyone can attend schools like Michigan, Stanford, and the Ivies. Nor, does everyone need to attend these schools. Just because you are not at one of the "better schools" does not mean your education has to be inferior. You are still entitled to a good education. Formal education is just a small part of it.  Education is a journey not a destination. At the best schools, you learn how to continually learn. When I received my masters, I went to Cal State Northridge.  They said, “You are coming from Michigan, with this GPA to Northridge?  Are you running from the police?”  I went there to study with a world expert. There was guy from Stanford, and a Rhodes scholar who had done the same.  At the graduate level, with whom you studied, matters more than where you studied. My Stanford colleague, the Rhodes scholar, and I enjoyed an excellent educational experience because our self-perception as students subsumed Northridge’s institutional perception. 

Random State School
There is only one reason an American cannot be excellent—the people who populate it decide to be less than.  Most of the state schools and junior colleges making classroom attendance mandatory and imposing "No texting or laptops during lectures” is the ultimate insult to the students' intelligence, the teachers’ dignity and the institution’s integrity. They are not behaving like universities, but like high schools. They are marginalizing their students by discouraging them to behave like university students. Such treatment obviates a proactive life strategy, which promotes a life of collateral consequence, rather than one of resounding force. 

University of Michigan
Every college student must assume responsibility for his or her education. Every station in life has unique educational opportunities.  Therefore, every institution is exceptional, if you have the mental capacity to identify it. There is no reason to acquiesce to inane rules and mire in mediocrity just to keep some teacher’s fragile ego company. What value is there in learning to be subservient? Those qualities are not the qualities found in the vanguard. For an institution to call itself a college and promote such a culture is fraudulent. This is not higher education; this is lower-level crime.  With the advantages of technology, the cardinal differences between the Ivies, Michigan, Stanford and these “Whatever State or Central Who” schools is a state of mind, or moreover, lack there of.  The less prominent institutions are only inferior because you allow it. Education is precious, expensive, and a privilege; treat it accordingly.  As always, remain fabulous and phenomenal.

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What a great teacher looks like

Billi Gordon, Ph.D., is Chair of the Advisory Committee for Collective Concerns in Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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