Recently, I attended my first accounting course for my Master’s in Business Administration. Previously, I did not believe that there were boring subjects, just boring educators. I must admit now that I was wrong. In my opinion, eight weeks of intense accounting classes not only drained my energy, but also affected my happiness index (I rate myself a solid 9/10, 7/10 with accounting). It got me thinking that others may also experience a similar situation with different classes, be they in the sciences or the arts. The natural choice of many is to drop the class, in which case this is a smart choice. But if the class is mandatory, and the instructor’s energy is at best exemplified by the color beige, then we must find a way to pass the class.
To do this, I have prepared a step by step list of minimizing the energy draining effect of boring classes. I hope that my readers benefit from this list and look forward to receiving feedback and criticism:
The first step is to analyze the teaching method. In most cases, the teaching method is slide reading. For those who do not know how to recognize this situation, it is characterized by a professor standing behind a screen, reading from a PowerPoint slide most likely provided from another source.
Step two is figuring out the least amount of work required for the most amount of value, that is, to not spend your time reading 40 pages of the chapter if your professor focuses mostly on the mathematic aspect of the course. Another example is doing homework if it is not mandatory.
Step three: If attendance is mandatory, use the class time to do the class/homework for the class during the allotted time for Dr. Beige’s instructing. This way, you are condensing the unpleasant part of your day into one hour. This is important because if you do not do your work during class, there is a chance that you will procrastinate. In classes that are practice based, like accounting, this is risky and may affect your grade negatively.
Step four: Ask students who have already taken the course for advice, especially regarding the professor. Professor Beige may like the occasional student chiming in about the topic. Search a random slide, then ask him or her once each class. This will safeguard your reputation if you need to speak with the professor regarding your grade in the future. Trends noticed with some professors are: talking with them about something they like (basketball), finding common ground on a cultural basis, being the teacher’s “pet”, being the one who cracks jokes in class, and finally, walking in late with confidence and a smile. Each professor is different and will have different biases. Some professors will not have biases, in which case it is best to remain quiet.
For readers of this article who are professors, I apologize for the crudeness of the previous paragraph, but these are only a few tools many students use to soften you up and nurture your human biases. To counter this behavior, the best method is to remain strict regarding the rules of your course. If you do notice students dozing off, the best method of figuring out what can be done is asking them.
I am surprised by how unconnected many professors are to their students. After surveying multiple samples, you will notice a trend of how your students prefer to learn your course material. Keep in mind, there will be a few students who will offer to cut class material as a form of advice. If your students tell you there is something wrong, they are almost always right, if they tell you exactly what is wrong, they are likely wrong.
The final step applies to both professors and students: please do your due diligence. If the students are unfocused in class, try to make the material more dynamic. If your professor is Dr. Beige, make the most of your time in class, or try to ask the professor for a different approach. Be very careful about this, as some professors get very defensive about their teaching methods.
By Salman Al Mutawa