On The Tormenting and Torturing of Students

The first class I ever taught, I was locked out of the classroom because the key they made for me was a copy of a copy of a copy.  While I was waiting for the department secretary to come let me in, several of my students showed up early, and mistook me for another student.  We chatted for a while, before they decided that it was too early to be standing around waiting, and left to go hit a Starbucks.  When they came back and found me standing up at the lectern, they turned purple.

For years, now, I’ve been trying to duplicate that effect.  Going on a story I heard from Bloodtypo, the first day of classes I dress down in a T-shirt and jeans.  My evil plan is that I’ll sit in a student desk and chill while the students file in, and say things like, “Have you heard about this Professor Russo?  I hear he’s a real pushover.”  And then, five minutes after class should have started, I’ll stand up and start lecturing and freak them all out.

The problem is, it never works.  Either the students won’t come in the classroom because “the professor isn’t here yet,” or someone recognizes me from a previous class.  Or perhaps I really am just getting too old-looking to play the mistaken-for-a-student prank any more.

Time for a new game plan.  My score on ratemyprofessor.com is way too high.  By Jove, my students are going to be weirded out if it’s the last thing I do!  Damn the professionalism, full speed ahead!

Here’s some ideas I found over at Subliminal Nonsense

50 Fun Things for Professors to Do on the First Day of Class


  1. Wear a hood with one eyehole. Periodically make strange gurgling noises.
  2. After confirming everyone’s names on the roll, thank the class for attending “Advanced Astrodynamics 690” and mention that yesterday was the last day to drop.
  3. After turning on the overhead projector, clutch your chest and scream “MY PACEMAKER!”
  4. Wear a pointed Kaiser helmet and a monocle and carry a riding crop.
  5. Gradually speak softer and softer and then suddenly point to a student and scream “YOU! WHAT DID I JUST SAY?”
  6. Deliver your lecture through a hand puppet. If a student asks you a question directly, say in a high-pitched voice, “The Professor can’t hear you, you’ll have to ask *me*, Winky Willy”.
  7. If someone asks a question, walk silently over to their seat, hand them your piece of chalk, and ask, “Would YOU like to give the lecture, Mr. Smartypants?”
  8. Pick out random students, ask them questions, and time their responses with a stop watch. Record their times in your grade book while muttering “tsk, tsk”.
  9. Ask students to call you “Tinkerbell” or “Surfin’ Bird”.
  10. Stop in mid-lecture, frown for a moment, and then ask the class whether your butt looks fat.
  11. Play “Kumbaya” on the banjo.
  12. Show a video on medieval torture implements to your calculus class. Giggle throughout it.
  13. Announce “you’ll need this”, and write the suicide prevention hotline number on the board.
  14. Wear mirrored sunglasses and speak only in Turkish. Ignore all questions.
  15. Start the lecture by dancing and lip-syncing to James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”
  16. Ask occassional questions, but mutter “as if you gibbering simps would know” and move on before anyone can answer.
  17. Ask the class to read Jenkins through Johnson of the local phone book by the next lecture. Vaguely imply that there will be a quiz.
  18. Have one of your graduate students sprinkle flower petals ahead of you as you pace back and forth.
  19. Address students as “worm”.
  20. Announce to students that their entire grades will be based on a single-question oral final exam. Imply that this could happen at any moment.
  21. Turn off the lights, play a tape of crickets chirping, and begin singing spirituals.
  22. Ask for a volunteer for a demonstration. Ask them to fill out a waiver as you put on a lead apron and light a blowtorch.
  23. Point the overhead projector at the class. Demand each student’s name, rank, and serial number.
  24. Begin class by smashing the neck off a bottle of vodka, and announce that the lecture’s over when the bottle’s done.
  25. Have a band waiting in the corner of the room. When anyone asks a question, have the band start playing and sing an Elvis song.
  26. Every so often, freeze in mid sentence and stare off into space for several minutes. After a long, awkward silence, resume your sentence and proceed normally.
  27. Wear a “virtual reality” helmet and strange gloves. When someone asks a question, turn in their direction and make throttling motions with your hands.
  28. Mention in passing that you’re wearing rubber underwear.
  29. Growl constantly and address students as “matey”.
  30. Devote your math lecture to free verse about your favorite numbers and ask students to “sit back and groove”.
  31. Announce that last year’s students have almost finished their class projects.
  32. Inform your English class that they need to know Fortran and code all their essays. Deliver a lecture on output format statements.
  33. Bring a small dog to class. Tell the class he’s named “Boogers McGee” and is your “mascot”. Whenever someone asks a question, walk over to the dog and ask it, “What’ll be, McGee?”
  34. Wear a feather boa and ask students to call you “Snuggles”.
  35. Tell your math students that they must do all their work in a base 11 number system. Use a complicated symbol you’ve named after yourself in place of the number 10 and threaten to fail students who don’t use it.
  36. Claim to be a chicken. Squat, cluck, and produce eggs at irregular intervals.
  37. Bring a CPR dummy to class and announce that it will be the teaching assistant for the semester. Assign it an office and office hours.
  38. Have a grad student in a black beret pluck at a bass while you lecture.
  39. Sprint from the room in a panic if you hear sirens outside.
  40. Give an opening monologue. Take two minute “commercial breaks” every ten minutes.
  41. Tell students that you’ll fail them if they cheat on exams or “fake the funk”.
  42. Announce that you need to deliver two lectures that day, and deliver them in rapid-fire auctioneer style.
  43. Pass out dental floss to students and devote the lecture to oral hygiene.
  44. Announce that the entire 32-volume Encyclopedia Britannica will be required reading for your class. Assign a report on Volume 1, Aardvark through Armenia, for next class.
  45. Ask students to list their favorite showtunes on a signup sheet. Criticize their choices and make notes in your grade book.
  46. Sneeze on students in the front row and wipe your nose on your tie.
  47. Warn students that they should bring a sack lunch to exams.
  48. Refer frequently to students who died while taking your class.
  49. Show up to lecture in a ventilated clean suit. Advise students to keep their distance for their own safety and mutter something about “that bug I picked up in the field”.
  50. Jog into class, rip the textbook in half, and scream, “Are you pumped? ARE YOU PUMPED? I CAN’T HEEEEEEAR YOU!”

*cackles evilly*  Oh yes, there will be blood… or at least tears…  I can’t wait until next semester!

Finals week always brings out the crazy in me.


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