School’s Out

by Mark on May 19, 2010

While posting the final grades, there is irony as the radio blares Alice Cooper singing, “School’s Out.” My first semester as a professor is over, yet I will miss it. While confident my classes learned something beyond my corny jokes, it is clear I learned so much more from them.

For instance:

• On the first day of class students select a seat. Except for some free spirits, they will return to the same seat for the rest of the semester. Makes me wonder if it is the same seat in every class throughout college?

• Grades are the top priority. More hands are raised on testing procedures, project points, and the penalty for skipping classes than any other subject. Since kindergarten, we conditioned them to equate energy with points. I worry that industry is not prepared to provide them the same kind of report cards;

• Textbook buying and selling remains a similar irritant as my perspective in the 1970’s. They are expensive – $130 – $160 each – and the return value is miserable. Many will spend the first week of a semester or more seeking the lowest book price on the internet. Digital books will rapidly replace printed volumes. This will reduce backpack weight, but the economics will remain in debate.

• Students, especially seniors, are under tremendous pressure. Many juggle an overloaded schedule with jobs and relationships. The biggest pressure is from parents, peers, and their own expectations. Will they find a job in a weak economy? What about the loans? Can they leave the best friends of their lives?

• My classes are outstanding negotiators. They will try to move exams, push back projects, or gain a better exam curve. I love their assertiveness. The U.N. can use some of that energy to solve world problems.

Most importantly, I learned the Class of 2010 is brilliant and determined. We worry about the economy, Iran nuclear powers, debt, Greece, and oil spewing in the gulf. Now, I worry less. After a semester with Generation Y, I am more hopeful this crew will move a few mountains. It will be a very long three months before I meet the Class of 2011.

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