Wednesday, January 2, 2013


On the other hand, sometimes a problem can turn into a positive experience. Not long ago, standing in front of a large auditorium full of freshman students, three ladies in the back of the room simply would not shut up, and the laughing seemed to be disturbing those around them. So I kicked them out of class. As you can imagine, the other 257 people in that room were very attentive for the rest of the period. But I got an e-mail later that day from one of those who’d been sent out:

I was asked to leave your class this morning and 
I just wanted to say that I am sincerely sorry for my
actions. I am ashamed and I honestly meant no 
disrespect to you or my classmates. Make no mistake, 
I was very humiliated by being asked to leave class. 
I really was paying attention to your lecture 
and final exam preparation discussion, but I did allow 
myself to become momentarily distracted and I take 
full responsibility for that lapse of judgment. Please 
understand that I am not writing this in order to argue 
my actions as acceptable, because I was in the wrong, 
but I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry. 
Respond if you wish, but I just thought you should know.
I responded. And the fact that this student sent the above message means that at the end of the semester, if she is a tenth of a point away from the next highest letter grade, I’ll move her up. But the real lesson is that no matter how anonymous or hidden you may think you are in a large auditorium, a teacher can probably see you and recognize immediately whether you are contributing to the overall academic atmosphere or being a distraction to your classmates. Fifty minutes is not very long. Just sit there, pay attention, and at least look like you’re taking notes, glancing up at the screen or blackboard periodically, even if you’re busy writing a poem or a letter to your significant other.