The “IT” effect, or when class means nothing

Professors wake up in a cold sweat thinking about “IT” day after day after day. If they’re lucky, they snuck in a Tuesday-Thursday schedule, even if it meant teaching a tutorial in Mears Cottage—whether it’s about Fox News, the evolution of grass, or even the musical career of David Hasselhoff. OK, people might actually sign up for that last one.
Otherwise, you’re stuck. You’re teaching Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes, classes with “IT”.

What’s “IT”?

Chances are, you know what “IT” is right now. You’ve done it yourself—maybe unintentionally. But “IT” is a part of you, “IT” is your instinctual response. “IT” is inside you.

What is “IT”?

“IT” is that feeling you get when the clock’s minute hand wheezes past 48 and strikes 49. Suddenly, you’re hungry. You completely lose focus in class, even as the professor is telling you the answers to the questions he will ask on the exam. But your mind is no longer there. Floating all the way from the Joe Rosenfield Center (’25) to your basement classroom in Noyce (’49) is the overwhelming aroma of the pork tenderloin sandwich (’08). You nervously start shuffling your papers, ensuring you will be first out the door, ahead of the others salivating like they’re in a Pavlovian experiment next to you.

Line? What line? You know you’ll be first. (Unfortunately, you won’t. Not first. Not second. Not even fiftieth. People have been camping out since last Wednesday with a devotion not found in even the savviest GORPers. How do you compete with these everyday Bear Grylls? You can’t).

Back in the classroom, everyone shuffles their papers. “IT” isn’t just your neighbors whose eyes are transfixed to the second hands of the atomic clocks in your classroom, “IT” is your whole class. Your professor is now screaming at the top of his lungs, desperate to reel you back from the edge. But you’re not there. You’ve already logged out of Facebook on your laptop. You’ve already packed your backpack. You’ve put your shoes back on.

11:50.

The race is on. As you sprint up the stairs and out of Noyce (’49), violently pushing aside former lab partners and FM staff alike, you encounter the stares of hundreds of eyes. Not only have you made your own meager addition to the list of hungry contestants, but you have also inadvertently skipped half the line, the half that’s waiting single-file all the way from the new Bear center (’39). They’re hungry, too. Don’t worry though, it’s a team effort in the dining hall. Everybody will get in. Today.

What can be done? What are we to learn from this?

First of all, despite all the complaints, the dining hall is delicious. Why else was there a line at 6 this morning (it’s not like it is the only place where students can eat).But more importantly, give your professors a chance next time. They prepared another minute of lecture for you, and even if they didn’t, they were going to say something important anyway. An extra 20 seconds still lands you three standard deviations away from Betty and Colleen, Grinnell’s very own St. Peters at the Gates (and Rathje (’50)) of Heaven. But in class, they can make all the difference in the world. And, it is more respectful to your professor. He is putting in the effort to teach you. Maybe next time, the night terrors won’t wake him up.

After all, he’s human, too. And don’t forget: he long ago accepted the fact that he’d be last out the door for pork tenderloins (’08), the aroma of which invades his classroom day after day after day.

Cheers!