As we trudge through midterm-season, I am sure students have had their fair share of moments in class — sometimes a little cliche — where they simply wanted to rip their hair out, me included. These are a few tried and tested classroom phrases that uniquely irk me each time I hear them. But now as an upperclassman, I’ve learned that it’s not too hard to sit through, because at the end of the day, we can all commiserate — and laugh — together. Next time you hear one of these in class, know that students across majors and disciplines are probably all feeling the same way.
1. “Let’s go ahead and break into small groups.”
Instantly, chills are running down my spine. In a matter of minutes, this can either go one of two ways — I end up with a wonderful group of classmates that has lively and productive conversation, or I am stuck with a group that cannot generate a singular word. The stakes become even higher when a group project or assignment is at play, a whole new level of torture.
2. “Don’t make me cold call someone.”
You’ve been there — your professor poses a question to your small discussion-based class and the classroom is full of blank stares and the sound of crickets. Your professor then threatens to call someone at random. Perhaps you begin furiously scribbling notes in hopes of evading the cold call, or you continue your blank stare, wishing the clock would move faster. Regardless of the strategy, my heart rate rises at the thought of being called on to share my ideas with the class in my 8 a.m. lecture.
3. “Piggy-backing off that idea…”
We desperately need a new transition phrase during class discussions. Piggy-backing this, piggy-backing that — the sheer abundance of piggy-backing occurring in classrooms across this University is concerning. I am all for being inspired to share a thought based on what a classmate previously said in discussion, but I am sure there is a way to avoid the ever-cringeworthy piggy-back. Perhaps trying “in addition to…” or “based off of that idea…” would be a good start
4. "Just to play devil’s advocate…”
Let’s go ahead and hit pause right here. The statement on the other side of this infamous phrase could be so many things, and frankly, I am not sure if I want to hear them. In my experience, “playing devil’s advocate” is often an excuse to go completely off the deep end in a discussion, like completely overhauling a classmate’s interpretation of a reading for the sake of the argument. Let’s stick to disagreeing and providing an alternative viewpoint — and leave the devil out of it.
5. “I see everyone packing up, but I haven’t said class is over yet.”
I am sure that it is undoubtedly frustrating to devote years of your life pursuing a PhD as a professor only to be met with students packing up their things while you are still talking. It is, however, also very nerve-wracking to be held beyond class time when you are currently in Nau Hall and your next class starts in ten minutes at the School of Architecture. I sympathize with this sentiment, but I cannot help but feel weary about staying past the end of class time when I am about to embark on a speed-walking marathon across grounds with an inhumanely heavy backpack.
6. “This is not an assignment that you can wait until the last minute to complete.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that starting most assignments or projects at the last minute is a bad idea, especially if you want anything remotely well-thought out or well-executed. No matter how much I need to hear this quintessential truth, I despise being reminded of it — nothing hurts more. Starting an explanation of the upcoming midterm or research paper with this warning generally clues me into the fact that I have a grueling and time-consuming task ahead of me, which is never a pleasant realization.
7. “Is this actually related to *insert niche random reference here*?
Obviously asking questions in class is a good thing. It is an essential part of the learning process. Asking a question that is not intended for genuine learning but instead to display your knowledge in front of the class is a whole other story — like interrupting a lecture to drop an obscure reference into a question that is only at-most tangentially related to the content at hand. Please know that I am sincerely unimpressed and am most definitely rolling my eyes.
8. “Don’t everyone speak at once!”
This is a classic statement, especially from Teachers Assistants, and I cannot blame them for trying to fill the awkward silence that is felt across Grounds. Nevertheless, being on the receiving end of this phrase is also quite uncomfortable — it is often followed by more silence and me shifting around uncomfortably in the chair thinking of something to say or a question to ask.
9. “Who wants to read this paragraph aloud?”
My eyes are immediately scanning the passage to make sure there aren’t any words I may accidentally mispronounce. I am doing mini-rehearsals in my head to make sure I can flawlessly nail the performance of a lifetime that is reading a passage aloud from Aphra Behn’s “Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister” to my English novel class. Spoiler alert — there is always something in that passage that I inevitably stumble over. Will I be reliving that in a loop in my head for the next two to three business days? Obviously.
10. “Please be well and take care of yourselves” *while handing out the most unforgiving and scary syllabus known to man*
When you open a syllabus and see the CAPS contact information plastered onto the helpful resources section, you are surely in for a doozy of a semester. Something that I cannot reconcile is a professor’s ability to have the most inflexible and unforgiving course requirements while telling students to take care of themselves and their mental health in the same breath. Here is a crazy possibility, professor — the very nature of your course is directly taking a toll on my own mental health.