I asked a lecturer what the most annoying things about students are
‘People who say ‘I can’t do 9am’. It’s like, what?’
We spend a lot of our time talking about lecturers and whether it's really worth £9000 a year to sit in front of their PowerPoints when they're only going to do two things. Firstly, changing the slide before you can finish your notes and secondly, trying to sell you their books that ultimately you won't even need.
But what about students? Are we annoying? Are we the baddies? What is it we do that lecturers find annoying?
Well, I asked a lecturer what the most annoying things students do, and trust me, this was a long conversation to transcribe.
Not doing the reading
"I think in general, what lecturers find the most annoying is when people don't do the reading. That's the number one.
"This is what has made me most miserable about teaching, it's that you don't know when you prepare a lecture or a seminar whether students have done the reading. In a way you're preparing two lessons – one for people who haven't read it and one for people who have.
"If you go with the lesson that assumes students haven't read it, you're complicit with them not doing the work, and if you pitch it to the people who have read it, you leave behind half of the class. And part of me thinks you deserve it, yet it leads to an odd experience for students. People not reading upsets everything.
"You can spend a long time planning something and you get excited about it and you get there and they haven't read it and it's flat then. Obviously I'm quite experienced so I have ways to include people, but it's quite disheartening, you know. Why are people paying £9000 to turn up to discuss something they haven't read? Do they just want me to tell them like they're at school?
"It's a bit annoying when someone says they read it over summer and they've forgotten it. Or 'I did read it but it was a long time ago, like the start of the summer'."
"You ask what's annoying, I have this conversation with staff quite a lot and it's to do with attendance.
"There's mechanisms to force students to come, I know we don't do it at this university but some universities count attendance as part of the final mark. The thing for a lecturer is, if your class size is 20, do you want to force 15 people who have no interest in the seminar but are forced to go, do you want 15 students sat there saying 'teach me something', and in a way I don't. I'd rather have five students turning up who are committed to turning up, because that way you'll get a better session. You kind of think if you haven't bothered to do the work, just don't come.
"In a way the system's failing the students and they're going to end up with a huge debt at the end of it, but they're adults and they made that decision. But for those students who bother to turn up, they're going to get a good experience. People forget, I go to conferences and I'm not great a talking to people so I'm in the same situations as students who don't want to come, I know how it feels to be socially awkward, so I do try to make people feel comfortable. I still get phased the first couple of weeks when I have a big group of students.
"What will annoy staff is people who say 'I can't do 9am'. It's like, what? I suppose if you're taking serious drugs it's hard to get up, but some students just can't be arsed to come in."
"There are some people who talk and you think great but you soon realise they just talk talk talk. I've not really had anyone that will take up those positions [deliberately provocative], I have had people who have said things to annoy women in particular.
"Some people just have those attitudes. It's not that I want people to feel like they can't say something, but you develop ways of, I suppose, challenging them and calling them out without closing down the discussion in the seminar. I have to say there's been some seminars, not frequently but they've stuck in my mind since, where I've just been stuck for words, like 'I don't know what to do now', and I don't want to say that person's wrong, but I do. You have to try and say 'I think you're wrong' without saying 'I'.
"It's wasting people's time, knowing what buttons to press and then sitting back. Sometimes you actually think that person believes what they're saying, and they're just sat behind this wall of 'you can't touch me, it's what I think'. I have asked those people at times 'is that what you truly believe?', because then you can address the broader issue of freedom and what are you free to do and say, and then you move onto 'with freedom comes responsibility' arguments."
"I haven't had it loads, but recently I've had a lot more people just come in and admit they're hungover. What students don't realise is sometimes the lecturers are hungover, so I know what it's like when it slows you down and you just feel a bit shitty.
"I find it curious that students get exorcised about that, I've never had a discussion with staff about it, the only problem I've had was an MA student who used to come in drunk and in the end he was asked to leave the course.
"I had some students who used to go to the pub in the hour and a half between the lecture and the seminar and see how many pints they could drink, and I never noticed until one of them had to give a presentation and he was absolutely pissed. He couldn't stand up. I just thought he was ill.
"The odd thing is, when I've had students who have come in looking tired, I just assume they've been working. I don't make assumptions as to why they're tired, I do tend to think it's jobs where they work in the evening. The hungover students, I know I shouldn't say this, I'm impressed they've still come to uni to be honest."