I enjoyed Thursday’s editorial cartoon depicting the professor oblivious to the various distractions occupying his students’ attention. I shared that view throughout college, assuming that professors were in their own tunnel-vision world and couldn’t see anything in front of them. Though iPhones didn’t exist in the ’90s, I found various ways to distract myself, including doodling and arguing with my conservative friend in the adjacent seat (sorry, Dr. S. I really did enjoy your class!).
However, the minute I stepped in front of a classroom as the instructor, I was quickly disabused of my assumptions. Let me assure you: we see everything. Some professors fight for students’ attention to the point of punishing the distracted, while others are resigned to the pull of technology and choose not to fight that battle. But don’t confuse a choice not to spend our limited class time fighting you with obliviousness to what you’re doing. We do notice. And, though we may not do this consciously, it’s human nature that such mental notes will affect our overall perceptions of you, which may in turn wield subtle influence over the various ways beyond written course work in which we evaluate you throughout your college tenure.
Adam Schiffer is a political science associate professor.