TEACHING EARLY IN THE MORNING: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DEAN

[I pretty much doubt that our busy Dean, Teresa Cabré –just re-elected– reads my blog, yet here’s my open letter for her (just in case, you never know).]

Dear Dean,
As I’m sure you know very well from personal experience, the ‘Facultat’ decided in time immemorial (before my time as a student) to start lectures at 8:30. Considering the UAB Campus is in the middle of nowhere, unless you’re one of the few teachers who find it convenient to live in expensive Sant Cugat this means getting up around 6:30 to be at UAB around 8:00. Yes, it’s possible to adjust the personal schedule a bit and reach UAB later but, as a teacher, I need my good 20 minutes pre-lecture for a last review of the class materials, drinking coffee, applying lipstick, etc.
That’s fine by me, at least in the Winter-Spring semester, when the sun rises as I travel by train to UAB. I’m fresh enough in the morning and I enjoy having a long day ahead. This is not, however, the case with many of my students (not all).
Even though we started the semester with a much needed introduction to class etiquette, including instructions about how to stifle yawns, students do yawn all the time in my face –no hands covering nicely their mouth, no deep intake of breath to, well, stifle a yawn. I had a male student close his eyes and practically fall asleep on me today, even though I have quite a strong voice and speak as loud as I can. I realise that can have a paradoxical lulling effect. Also, it’s much easier for me to keep awake as I do most of the talking and, poor things, they must listen to my ranting and raving –I mean teaching.
Using PowerPoint or anything that requires projecting computer documents onto our big screen requires enormous dexterity as to what exact degree of light will prevent students from falling asleep. I think I have almost managed that… The electricians never realised that by placing the fluorescent lights in rows across the benches front to back instead of parallel to them, teachers need to darken THE WHOLE classroom… By the way, one of the blinds that compensates for this oversight is not working; I lodged a complain 5 weeks ago.
Then, there’s the problem of punctuality. I’m in class at 8:30, maybe 8:33 some days. I give my students 10 extra minutes, which means that classes begin by 8:40. Despite my constant warnings and complaints, many students are late. A girl came last Tuesday at 9:15. One of my colleagues had a student turn up at 9:45. The stream of students coming in between 8:40 and 9:00 is simply inacceptable. Yes, we’re quite surprised and wonder what will happen when the late-comers have a regular job.
I’ll leave for some other day matters such as why some students never take notes, why others think I’m so blind I don’t see them texting their friends with their cell phones… All in all, today we had a great session, including a bravura performance by three students of the first 11 pages of Look back in Anger, which was really excellent. I don’t want to spoil the mood.
So, dear Dean, why 8:30? Either we build a town on campus and give many more people the chance to move in, or we reconsider our schedule. Particularly considering that most students’ attention time-span tends towards 60 minutes, not 75, much less 90 (the last time I heard someone speak for 90 minutes I ended up exhausted –and he was wonderful, and I didn’t have to attend 4 more lectures). It’s either that, or have UAB bring us all nice coffee in the morning, as my lectures begin. Milk and sugar –one lump– for me, thanks. On the other hand, if we must adapt, then you need to train early-morning teachers like me on how to keep students awake. I don’t seem to be doing that well.
Yours,
Sara Martín (Senior Lecturer)

2 comentarios en “TEACHING EARLY IN THE MORNING: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE DEAN

  1. You do not know how much I agree with your comments!!!! I have the same problem as you … but at the end of the day, as I teach 8-10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday… Up to 9.15 is ok, but after that time, I can’t do anything «serious» with them. Luckly, this lessons are English for Journalists so I plan more interesting activities, but this is not always possible. But timetables, are timetables and we have to cope with the ones we are assigned. Think about taking coffe to the classroom… each week one group can be in charge of it. The problem I see is when the group in charge are the ones arriving very late…

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