college life

Clapping for Class

Well, the end of the quarter has come, and almost all classes ended earlier today. The end of things can be bittersweet, but here, the emotion is mostly relief. With 10 week quarters, midterms begin as early as week 3 and last through week 10, meaning that most classes are more sprinting than marathoning.

But although many students never ever want to go back to a class, that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate the class or the prof. I would say that most lecturers are well-liked by their students. It seems, however, that gift-giving doesn’t happen the same way as it does in grade school, though. A large portion of that is probably that parents don’t vicariously give gifts at this age anymore. So maybe lecturers get thank you notes and emails nowadays. That I’m not really sure about.

What I do know about is students clapping for the lecturer and course after the last class session. The first class I saw it in was CS107 last fall, taught by the amazing Jerry Cain, when Jerry closed the class without too much ceremony. The students seemed to know what to do, though, because everyone started clapping anyways. And it may seem like a token gesture, but even clapping can be pretty nice.

Which makes me wonder what conditions under which it happens. Let’s go over my schedule this year, how they went, and some of what I believe are relevant circumstances:

Phil 150 (logic) – half-clapping? Our main lecturer, Dave, finished his part last week, and it’s been a guest lecturer for the past 4 sessions. We clapped at the end of the course this morning, though I don’t know if got his fair share. It’s a decent-sized lecture class, though being a 9:00, people don’t show up. We kind of got a closing statement and wish for best luck from our lecturer.

Math 120 (modern algebra) – clapped. Class of maybe 20-ish kids, and our lecturer, Ravi, was pretty awesome. One person definitely started it, but I think there were also others who would’ve started it, as people picked up almost instantly.

PWR 2 (writing) – small seminar-style class with 15 students. We’ve really gotten to know each other really well, and Jonathan, who taught the class, also endeared himself to us. We had a big clapping session when we finished our final reflections and just celebrated the end of the class.

CS 147 (HCI) – huge class, 150, of almost all upperclassmen taught by Scott, who is amazingly cool and actually got discussion going on during lecture (which I’ve never seen). I think everyone really enjoyed the class. But no one clapped. He also had a guest lecturer for the final session, but that wasn’t a surprise, so the class knew his last class would’ve been Tuesday. I got out one clap before I realized no one was going for it, and I saw one other guy who tried too, which makes me think there were a couple. For the most part, though, everyone was rushing out of the class when it was over, as usual.

So CS147 has really thrown me off as I thought that class would’ve been a certain clapping situation. I’ve certainly been in classes with boringish material that cost the clap, but some certainly deserve it.

There is the difference between the seminar clap and the lecture clap, though. The first is a more congratulatory clap, I think, because most seminars end up building some good relationships, and it really is a bunch of friends having pulled through by the end, and great appreciation for the mentor that carried us along. The lecture clap is more appreciation, though, as it’s really about what the lecturer has managed to teach us.

In either case, though, I think it’s usually deserved. Even if a class isn’t amazing, I haven’t taken a class where that was because the lecturer didn’t care or wasn’t trying. It’d be naive to say that all classes and teaching methods are equal. But appreciation isn’t just appreciating quality; it’s appreciating investment.

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