THE BLOG

Office Hours

11/29/2012 05:01 pm ET | Updated Jan 29, 2013

The scene is after-class on any given day. The students, having paid varying degrees of attention for 60 minutes, are collecting their things. Without exception, every one of them has a smart phone in-hand and every one of them is giving that device the undivided attention the professor would be delighted to have had during the preceding hour -- even if only for a few minutes here and there.

Navigating through the standing pockets of transfixed texters, Student X approaches. Predictably, he will want to talk about something that was covered in the 58 minutes of the period during which he was staring at the wall dazed and confused. And so, with the usual "I-need-to-talk-to-you-but-first-I-need-to-do-this-important-thing-with-my-phone" look on his face, our story begins...

Student X: [looking down at his phone] "Yo, Prof. I wanted to make an appointment to discuss my grade on the paper."

Professor: "Well, okay, but I pretty much explained the reasons for the grade in the margins and in the extensive comments at the end."

Student X: [looking down at his phone] "Uh huh."

Professor: "Did you read those comments?"

Student X: [looking up from his phone] "Huh? Read what? Oh, that? No, I didn't."

Professor: "Why not?"

Student X: "Because I wanted to make an appointm..."

Incoming text message ...

Student X: "That mother-fuc... "

Professor: "Excuse me."

Student X: "Oh, hey. What did you want again?"

Professor: "What did I want? I don't want anything. You wanted something; to make an appointment, for some reason."

Student X: "Oh yeah. I didn't like my paper grade and so we need to make an appointment to discuss it. I didn't agree with it."

Professor: "Okay, what did you disagree with? You said you didn't read the comments, which means you don't even know why you received that grade."

Student X: "Um, well, I didn't disagree with the comments. I just didn't like the grade. So let's make an appointment to talk about how we can change it to a better grade."

Professor: "How can you disagree with the grade if you have not even taken the time to read the reasons for the grade?"

Student X: "It just felt like an A when I was writing it. I am totally a good writer."

Professor: [nearly choking on the chutzpah] "What?! You thought it was an A? How could..."

Incoming text message

Student X: "Hold that thought, Prof. This is really important. Gotta respond to this dude. Actually, can we talk later? Let's discuss raising my grade during our appointment."

Professor: "We don't have an appointment. And, no, we can't discuss this later. I have real appointments with real people who know how to have real conversations."

Student X: [looking down at his phone] "Oh, yeah -- that's right. I forgot that I am one of those appointments you have. Thanks for reminding me!"

Professor: "No, you are not one of those appointments. You and I do not have an appointment. We have nothing to discuss until you read the comments on the..."

Student X: "Oh right, I am glad you finally mentioned those comments. I wanted to tell you I didn't like them. They were in like red ink and stuff and were totally all over the place on the paper. You should write comments like they do in PowerPoint, Prof. Have you heard of PowerPoint? We use that all the time in my Business School classes and it's awesome. Just like two or three words per line with a bullet point..."

Professor: "Thank you, but I am a member of the Anti-PowerPoint-Party. For me, that program epitomizes the diminished attention span of an entire generation of . . ."

Student X: "Yeah, you should just summarize those comments in PowerPoint to save us time before our appointment. That'd be easier."

Professor: "Easier? I have already written the comments, so how would it be easier for me to summarize what I already wrote on your paper? I would just be commenting on the comments I have already written."

Student X: "I don't know if you know this or not, but I got a 1200 on my S.A.T."

Professor: "Actually, I did know that. You told me yesterday. And the day before. For some reason, you seem to think that means something. Last week you mentioned it after admitting that you had failed to do your homework. But as long as we are on that topic, I assume the test had instructions written out, right? Kind of like written comments, perhaps? Did you read those?"

Student X: "Also, one time I got an A+ on a paper in high school. I wrote about how World War II was a hoax."

Professor: "World War II was a hoax? You mean -- like it didn't happen? Like it was staged?"

Student X: "Totally staged. Dreamed up by Hollywood to make war movies."

Professor: "I am sorry, but that is simply..."

Student X: [looking down at his phone] "Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just downloading this new app that lets me make appointments in a 13th Century Icelandic language."

Professor: "Listen, I am very busy and don't have time to hear about Nordic vernacular meeting-making software. Let's just look at the first sentence of your paper and be done with this. You have neither a noun nor a verb. You simply have the word 'annoying.' Believe me, I know the meaning of that word; but still it does not constitute a complete sentence. What's more, you have 2 ½ pages of text without any punctuation. Not even a stray comma. How can you have a one-word sentence to start with and then follow it with a sentence that is 2 ½ pages long?"

Student X: "My teachers in high school believed that punctuation was upprissive."

Professor: "Do you mean 'oppressive'?"

Student X: "Yeah, we always just did... "

Incoming text message

Student X: [looking up from his phone] "Prof, never give a girl your phone number when you're hammered. They're like stalkers. So, anyways, what time is our appointment again?"

Professor: "For the last time, we don't have an appointment. And we are not going to make one just for me to explain the..."

Student X: "Hey, this has been great. Let's keep this going during our appointment. I really feel like you are starting to appreciate my brilliance. Did you know that I was the Assistant to the Associate Editor for my high school newspaper?"

Incoming text message ...

Professor: "I am done speaking with you. I am headed to my office."

Student X: "Okay, cool. I will be there soon."

~ 10 minutes later ~

Student X: [knocking] "Prof, I am here for our . . . "

Professor: "Let me guess -- for our appointment? Tell me, why the insistence on making an appointment?"

Student X: [looking down at his phone] "Huh? Oh, yeah, I forgot. By the way, how long will this take? I have another appointment after this one."

Professor: "For the final time, we do not have an appointment. We never had an appointment and we have nothing to discuss during an appointment because ... Wait, never mind. You know what? Actually, this is our appointment."

Student X: "Oh, this is our appointment?"

Professor: "Yes, this is our appointment."

Student X: "Right now? Right here? We're appointing?"

Professor: "Yes, whatever. Let's just do this, okay? Here we go: we are starting our appointment right now."

Student X: "Cool, Prof. So, what did you want to talk about?"