Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Strangest Thing

Eventually I will finish a post that contains my thoughts on What Should Be Done to train new professors to teach, but it's not ready to go yet. So, in the meantime, inspired by a comment from Kim, I will ask my readers a question:

What's the strangest thing you have seen in a classroom while teaching?

I don't think I have seen anything too bizarre. I recall one student who needed to have a little stuffed animal on her shoulder during every class. She sat near the front, and I found the scruffy little dog a bit distracting. It just sat there, but for some reason its beady little eyes looked evil to me. [I just made that last part up; I thought the dog-on-shoulder thing was bizarre, but it didn't really bother me.]

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

A recent MIT grad is quite famous for having spent his entire four years at MIT as well as all his summer jobs with a beanie baby cow on his shoulder. To the best of my knowledge, he has never been spotted without it in any public setting. I believe the cow has something to do with a summer program in computer science which he attended during high school. (The program was located in Wisconsin, where dairy is big.) You can see a photo on his student website at MIT, which also has his (very impressive) resume.

http://web.mit.edu/andersk/www/

Anonymous said...

You're just biased against dogs, FSP, because you're a cat-person

:-)

Yuriy said...

Does this qualify?

Anonymous said...

That really is "bizzare". They wouldnt have allowed it in my college atleast when I was an undergrad. Probably a student with similar tendencies would have had to make do with a soft toy pencil box placed unobtrusively on the desk.

Klaas said...

As an undergrad, I had a professor who needed a microphone during his lectures. The microphone used a long (20ft?) wire plugged into the sound system. During one lecture, he walked around the desk at the front when the plug came out. While continuing to lecture, he walked back and plugged his microphone...into the mains outlet causing an explosion and near electrocution. The professor was carted off by emergency services.

plam said...

Was Lady Gaga in your class?

J said...

As a student, a fellow classmate brought a live rabbit to a lecture, which she petted in her lap for the duration....I'm assuming it was her pet, but why bring it to a lecture on statistical mechanics?

Dr M. said...

Hi FSP!

In one of my undergrad physiology lectures, a student used to take a rat into class. A real live pet rat. He also use to walk around in the middle of a Brisbane summer with a black cloak and a stave.


But a pet rat would have to be the weirdest thing I've seen.

Anonymous said...

I've had the stuffed-animal student, although it was a moose. But the oddest thing was the student who must have been watching porn and then started to masturbate. He was in the back row, I called on him. He flubbed the answer, badly, and dropped the next day (thankfully).

Emma Garst said...

There's someone at my school who walks around in a Harry Potter-esque robe 24/7. She also carries around a stuffed owl in a cage. Sometimes she lets out the owl and puts it on her shoulder so she can whisper to it.
Although I have yet to meet this young lady, I have seen her once or twice.

studyzone said...

Well, this takes me back to my high school teaching days, but about 10 years ago, pacifier lollipops were all the rage (they may still be - I haven't checked recently). On my first day of teaching, I was confronted by a classroom full of 15- and 16-year olds (both genders) sucking on pacifiers.

MommyProf said...

I had a student once who starting taking pictures of me while I was teaching.

MGS said...

I sometimes brought my pet rat to class in undergrad. Usually the rat stayed in my pocket or in a pouch in my shirt. During one lecture we were all falling asleep because the professor had a soothing voice and the topic that day wasn't that interesting. The rat started to climb up my shirt and the professor yelled out "There's a rat on your shirt!" It certainly woke everyone up, and I like to think it made us more alert for the rest of the lecture.

I've also brought my dog to class (with express permission, of course-- I learned my lesson with the rat). Usually my dog would just sleep on the floor next to me during class. On the last class we were filling out the course evaluations and the school provided us with a stash of pencils to fill them out. Another professor from across the hall started to sneak into our room to steal some of our pencils for his class and my dog saw this person sneaking suspiciously and gave him a "woof woof woof!". The professor and the rest of us laughed.

Some other strange things I've seen in class (not caused by myself) are a front row filled with naked people, a guy who wore nothing but a towel all year, and a girl doing some white powdered drug (cocaine?) in lecture.

Jim H. said...

This semester I had a student who spent the entire lecture (every lecture) rolling his hair between his hands to make his dreads lock. Distracting, but tame compared to some of the comments.

Professor in Training said...

When I was teaching high school, I had a student come to class after lunch one day with his head covered in new dreadlocks. Unfortunately, he had decided to create the dreadlocks with superglue which resulted in tufts of hair sticking straight up and his fingers stuck together.

Anonymous said...

Well...my classes have been mostly "normal" but here is something I once did that might qualify as an interesting tidbit.

There were these two very hardworking students in my class who were bf and gf...neither of them particularly gifted, but very meticulous. They made a very cute couple and they came to every single one of my office hours together...with a smile.

Over the semester, I kinda grew to like them. At the end of the semester, I added up their scores and the guy had scored 88 and his girlfriend 90. As far as the grading system I had announced... a 90+ would go for an A and <90 would go for B, C and so on.

Shortly after the exam, these kids were the first to drop by and ask me how much they had scored. I didn't have the heart to disappoint them. I gave the guy a 90 and both of them went their merry way...with A's.

Of course, I had to sit down with the rest of the papers and give extra points to everyone else who had gotten 88 or 89, but hell, sometimes you gotta be nice :)

Anonymous said...

I once had a student actually take notes and pay attention in class. I was SHOCKED to say the least.

Anonymous said...

I also had a pet incident. I had a student bring a small, blind, (very very elderly) poodle-like dog to class with him... hidden in his backpack! The student himself was completely bizarre anyways, and he came up to chat about something class related afterwards, started telling me about his dog (which I nodded along with, but at that point didn't know where it was going). Then he asked if I wanted to meet the dog, and produced it from his backpack. Fortunately the dog itself, being old and blind, didn't seem to mind just sitting in there for long periods of time, but it was bizarre!!

Anonymous said...

This happended to one of my colleagues: A couple years ago in a 400 person introductory chemistry class, a couple started making out in the middle of lecture. They sat right in the middle of the room. For the rest of the semester, the TAs had to go on lovebird patrol to keep the amorous couple under control.

Ria said...

The strangest thing that I've seen while teaching was when I was teaching a weekend lab on cell growth (yeast) to general biology students. One of the students at 4AM had decided to come into the lab (where we were using antiquated glass pipettement and culture tubes, btw) barefoot...and she caused a real scene when I refused to allow her into the lab! The school thereafter had to post signs that students wouldn't be allowed into the science building without shoes on at all times.

From a student perspective, I once had a professor who lectured us from the top front right corner (yes, up at the ceiling!) where he had rigged a chair with a system of pulleys to sit in...the lecture hall was 2 stories tall. It was a physics class, and it was the university's "charity week". If every student paid a dollar, the professor would get jailed (if he gave permission) until he paid an equal amount to get out of jail...and class would thereby be cancelled. That only worked if the jailors could actually transport the professor to jail, however. Hence the elevated teaching situation.

amy said...

Once I TA'd for a professor who had a very high opinion of himself. He wore 3-piece Italian suits every day, constantly referred to his own high status in the profession, and had the students absolutely terrified of him. During the final exam, he left the lecture hall to use the restroom, but forgot to remove his lapel microphone. The restroom was right next door, and we were treated to amplified audio of his "performance." When he walked back in the room, everyone was laughing hysterically and the TAs had the pleasure of explaining to him what had happened.

Curby Alexander said...

Well, this guy isn't in any of my classes, but I see him on campus nearly every day. He carries two bags with him: one is a backpack and the other is one of those duffel bags with mesh sides. Inside the duffel is what I believe to be the smallest dog I have ever seen. I have been tempted to ask him what kind of dog it is, but I know that anyone who takes his dog to class in a duffel bag will most definitely TALK about his dog for hours on end. So, I just keep walking.

mixlamalice said...

In the University I taught in France (the biggest one), one of my students was rolling a joint. He was hiding a little but not that much.
He smoked it during the break (once again, he went a little away, but not so that you can't see him).
Thermodynamics is never really interesting, I understand.

Anonymous said...

Ok this happened when I was in middle school. We had some student who was probably two years older than the rest of the kids. He had transferred from some other place. One day in class he actually got out a mirror and a sharp object and started to pierce his own ear, making all sorts of grunting noises as he did it. He eventually transferred out to another school within a few weeks.

Kim said...

When I was an undergrad, one of the other three students in an upper-level class curled up on the floor in the classroom and slept. She said she couldn't justify sleeping any other time, because she had to work on her senior thesis. But during class... during class she didn't feel guilty about sleeping.

When I see senior majors getting close to the edge, I tell them that story, and then tell them to go home and get some sleep.

fBm said...

I had a student who moaned with his head in his hands all through class. It was distracting at first, but the whole class got used to it. He had some form of autism I think.

A friend of mine told me that in her real analysis class whenever the professor would say "Cantor" (which happens a lot in analysis), the whole class would do the Wave.

Anonymous said...

This was many years ago. As a grad student TAing organic chemistry lab, I had a student who drove me nuts because he was always putting chemicals into his mouth. He was curious to know what they tasted like. Later as a neurologist I wondered if he had a partial Kluver Bucy syndrome.

Retread

Anonymous said...

When I took AP Biology in high school, there was a pet rabbit in a cage in the classroom. The teacher would sometimes let him out during class - however, at one point in time, instead of just sniffing around, the rabbit ("Bob") must have hit puberty or something? because he started humping any object in sight - preferably the foot/leg of someone in the class, or occasionally, the leg of the teacher himself. Rather distracting...Bob's behavior meant he had to stay in his cage from then on (where he continuously humped a stuffed animal with rather amazing stamina).

muddled grad student said...

This strange thing was not from a student but the lecturer. It was a mathematics course and he would turn up each day in a different outfit. The most memorable were a straw hat and colourful bermudas, a ninja type getup, and neon track suit.

mixlamalice said...

My landlord's cat is like that. He must be nymphomaniac because even though he is cut, he is still raping a towel several hours a day...
My girlfriend for a while didn't know what that towel was and she used it to dry her hands...

Sorry it is not on topic, but it is still a strange thing to see this cat moaning, biting the towel and making love to it. He is usually afraid of me (this is one of those cats that make you wanna have dogs), but when he is in action he can't stop.

Shannon said...

My husband was lecturing one day when a student's seeing eye dog started making retching sounds. After a few minutes of this, the dog proceeds to vomit all over the floor. Luckily, the student had a friend in class who cleaned it all up, so the class proceeded as if nothing happened.

rethoryke said...

I had classmates who wore their tarantulas on their shoulders during class, and a student who had her dentist boyfriend bond larger fangs onto her upper canine teeth...

Anonymous said...

I didn't witness this, it was something I heard from a friend that struck me as hilarious: in my friend's psychology class (no, really), the students decided to experiment with the professor. They paid rapt attention to him when he stood on the left side of the room and no attention at all when he stood on the right. By the end of the semester, he was hugging the left wall.
--Azulao, being lazy about login

iGrrrl said...

I watched a student with long hair use her hair to floss her teeth during lecture. /blink/

The Geek In Question said...

I had a prof, who, without fail, wore the same outfit to work every single day: navy blue t-shirt, beige shorts, red socks, brown shoes. Even in the dead of winter. He had like 2 dozen pairs of each item.

Alex said...

in my friend's psychology class (no, really), the students decided to experiment with the professor. They paid rapt attention to him when he stood on the left side of the room and no attention at all when he stood on the right. By the end of the semester, he was hugging the left wall.

This strikes me as an urban legend. Did your friend's cousin by any chance pay $250 for a cookie recipe? My college roommate's friend's mother supposedly did.

Anonymous said...

I had a student who would park his pen by sticking it up his nose. I was gobsmacked.

I looked at the ceiling and said to the tiles upon it, "Do not stick your pens or pencils up your nose. This would be a career-limiting move in a professional environment. Do not do this in class either." I did not want to identify and embarrass the student. The student then immediately loudly objected, "It wasn't really up my nose. It was more on my lip."

I turned to the board, took one big breath, and kept teaching. But he did stop sticking his pen up his nose. At least in my class.

Posted anonymously to avoid the shame of my institution.

shmedelle said...

This happended to one of my colleagues: A couple years ago in a 400 person introductory chemistry class, a couple started making out in the middle of lecture. They sat right in the middle of the room. For the rest of the semester, the TAs had to go on lovebird patrol to keep the amorous couple under control.

Well, it was a chemistry class after all.

shmedelle said...

In the University I taught in France (the biggest one), one of my students was rolling a joint. He was hiding a little but not that much.
He smoked it during the break (once again, he went a little away, but not so that you can't see him).
Thermodynamics is never really interesting, I understand.


The lights were dim in the large art history class that I was enjoying. Just enough light emanated from the slides to scribble my notes. I felt a tap on my shoulder from another student. I obliged him, reached in my bag and handed him a pen.

When the lights came back on, indicating that class was over, he returned my pen with a wink and a non. In the light, I realized the pen I gave him was really an instrument for cleaning out a marijuana smoking device.

The thing was covered in sticky, black resin. My vision was impaired, but how did my nose fail?

Anonymous said...

Pretty tame by the standards set so far, but I had a professor (in an undergrad neuroscience class) who had a verbal tic of saying the words "and so on" all the time whether it made sense or not. I actually started keeping track, he said the words "and so on" an average of ~55 times per 50-minute class period (max was something like 120, min approximately 15). I reported the statistics on my teaching evaluation, does that make me a bad person?

EuropeanFemaleScienceProfessor said...

Do you really want to know?

As a girl I was told to keep my knees together, otherwise people could see "all the
way to China", i.e. my underwear.

One morning in class a well-proportioned jock had to sit in the front row on account
of being late and all the more comfortable places where they message each other or
watch/make videos during class were taken.

I make it a point to look at each of my students at least once during class. As I was
scanning the front row I realized that Jock had made himself comfortable with his legs spread wide open. And there was a big hole in an important place. Not only could
I see all the way to China, China appeared to be flesh-colored and have hair.

I blinked, wondering if I was hallucinating. No, still there. So I made it a point to not look at Jock the rest of class, although I was mighty tempted.