Saturday, May 23, 2015

When Teachers Are Too Lazy to Teach: Student Presentations

what the auditorium looked like during most of the presentations

Depending upon one's schedule, finals are from fourteen to sixteen days ahead of us. For some reason, the great brain trust in charge of our Human Health and Disease course thought it would be a fabulous idea for us to waste a full class session (it was actually more than a full class session; we started early to ensure that there would be time for all presentations) with student presentations on various topics related to our course of study. Five professors, lecturers, or whatever they choose to call themselves, sat in the rear of the auditorium for the purpose of evaluating us.

Despite my occasional denigration of some of  their respective abilities to teach us, I would venture to surmise that any one of them could have made better use of our time by lecturing to us about any subject even vaguely related to the cardiopulmonary aspects of human health and disease than was actually made of the time with our lame presentations. 

Some presentations were better than others, of course. Some students know more than others, obviously. Other students know a great deal but are horribly uncomfortable at speaking to a group of one hundred or more people, which is probably why they chose to go into medicine as opposed to something more like acting or motivational speaking. 

Mostly the experience was incredibly boring, but those of us with at least minimal social graces tried hard to pretend that we were interested in everything that each presenter had to say. It's hard enough for a shy person to speak in front of a large group without seeing people in your  audience using their ipads or playing with their cell phones. (At least with ipads, one could pretend to be taking notes, although we're supposed to use our official laptops for that purpose.) I'm not quite sure A) why it was not announced before the presentations began that such use was prohibited, as professors and lecturers would never allow students to play on their phones during lecture;  or B) why the offending students lacked the human decency not to engage in such behavior.

Had I been a meaner person, I would have taken a mental note of which students were being rude during the presentations of others and would have organized an attention-boycott of the rude students' presentations, but I'm not quite as unkind as I sometimes come across in this blog. Some of the ruder students were every bit as flustered in their presentations as were the most shy students there. I would not have been a guilty party to adding to their stress.

I even helped "Bimbo." She was struggling for terms. As I knew her topic relatively well, I quickly came up with a list of terms that might elude her grasp. I scrawled them on note paper with markers and discreetly held each one up when she seemed to need it. I don't think anyone knew other than the students seated on either side of me and perhaps the one directly behind me. She made it through her presentation without totally falling flat on her face, and actually thanked me afterward.

Matthew did predictably well. I wrote a large part of his content, but anyone could have written it. The skill was in the presentation. A few students  are sufficiently  good presenters that they could hold just about anyone's attention. Matthew is one of such people, along with Kal Penn and The Cool Guy.

I had the privilege of presenting dead last, after even those who might otherwise have had  vague interest in anything I had to say were already zoned out far beyond redemption. As a last minute addition, I pulled up a joke video of the features of the latest iphone, put it on the available screen,  and started my presentation with it. Less than a minute into it, I cut it off, mentioned that speaking of phones, we could probably all live without ours for the next four minutes, and asked students to put theirs away, then waited while they complied. I got a few scathing looks, but no one was on his or her cell phone during my presentation.

One of my proper little Asian friends said that my presentation would be enhanced by my appearing more sexy. She had her younger sister from up the peninsula take the train down to do my makeup and bring me sexier clothing. I started out wearing an over-sized blazer, but took it off once I semi-had the group's attention. After that, I actually did have the attention of the males. My topic was asthma as related to occupation. Most of it involved showing videos my friends had graciously  traveled all over northern California on weekends taping for me. They had to pretend to be miners, teachers (we were fortunate enough to find a teacher that would let us use her classroom full of students; I think she had parent-signed-waivers, but just in case she didn't, I will not post the video; the  kids were great little actors who wheezed and coughed right along with Kal Penn as he was trying to teach while wheezing), farmworkers and farmers (I caved in to stereotypes: Raoul was the farmworker; for someone who does not even speak Spanish, he does a great accent), occupational cleaning, and hairdressing (The Cool Guy portrayed an awesome hairdresser).

My strategy was to speak as little as possible, have good visuals, and be quick and to the point. My brevity allowed the class to leave two minutes early, so everyone loved me at least for the thirty seconds it took for them to get out the door.

All of this would have been just delightful had we done it three weeks ago before everyone was stressing out over prepping for finals.  The word on the street, however, is that once a person attains sufficient education to be in charge of a medical school program, he or she loses whatever common sense he or she once possessed.

Because it's Memorial Day weekend, Matthew and I traveled home. We brought along  two friends -- a girl whose family lives in Taiwan and Kal Penn, whose family lives in the Midwest. We'll study, but not a hell of a lot. Jared and his cousin Alyssa are coming over in just a bit. Jared has applied and been accepted to a med school not far from where I will be. We can see each other on occasion, or at least a lot more than we currently see each other.

Happy Memorial Day! I will remember to honor the veterans who gave their lives (and even those who did not) to ensure the freedoms we now enjoy. May it ever be thus.


  1. That was very nice of you to help out the woman that you call Bimbo. You were her angel for the day. Also you took command of the situation by asking people to turn off their phones showing that you have a commanding presence.

  2. thanks. i hope the evaluators saw it that way.