Thursday, September 17, 2015

Keeping the Attention of Students

I have written before about the complicated lives of students. They are tired. They are stressed. They have a lot going on in their lives. I can't always command their attention and that's okay.

I actually complimented two of my classes yesterday for paying any attention to me, at all. Seriously. I talked briefly about video games in my Introduction to Sociology class. The best selling video game so far in 2015 is Mortal Kombat X. I showed the trailer in class to discuss the game as an element of American culture. Several students told me they play the game/like the game and said the trailer is actually a tame representation of the game. It was then that I said out loud that it's miraculous they pay any attention to me carrying on about sociology. I know that taking an interest in video games doesn't automatically mean not taking an interest in academic matters. It's just a reminder that students aren't always going to be excited about a sociologist talking about feelings and humanity and structural inequalities. It's easy for me to stay engaged. I'm constantly moving around the classroom and hustling for class participation. They are sitting in chairs with a million distractions in their heads and another million distractions on their devices.

It also occurs to me that this is a society in which Donald Trump is running for president. This is a society with people who take Donald Trump seriously as a presidential candidate. Most of my students could probably care less about Donald Trump. Still, we are part of the same society that includes Donald Trump having the time of his life tweaking the American electorate and working over the media.

So what does it all mean in this day and age to be a sociology professor? Hell if I know. I do the best I can to teach my subject matter. I always try to be a sympathetic and flexible professor. I'm appreciative that very busy students in a very strange society give me a chance to teach them sociology.

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