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A Millennial Lecturer in a GEN-Z Class – Episode 3

A millennial lecturer shares his over a decade experience in the academia teaching and supervising most GEN-Z. Welcome on the 10-episode series recollection.
Macaulay, Babajide Milton Ph.D., EMBA
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Welcome to the 10-episode series on my shocking experience as a millennial lecturer teaching Gen-Z students in a Federal University in Nigeria in the last 12 years.

It’s a collection of my classroom interactions with a generation of quick-witted, internet-savvy young adults who are “too bold” for their own good.

Episodes 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

Episodes 4-10 will follow in due time.

—-

Episode 3

While interacting with my Gen-Z students in class, I quickly noticed a common behaviour.

They generally love explaining themselves even when they are wrong.

Rather than say “I’m sorry”, they prefer to reel out a bunch of excuses, hoping it would save them from apologising.

Let me cite a good example.

In one of my classes, I revealed to the students that I will give them a written test the following week. I also stated the specific time the test would hold; 10:15 AM.

Normally, the class begins at 10:00 AM but I decided to give them 15 minutes grace to cover for eventualities that could occur along the way to class.

I didn’t forget to stress that if anyone arrive after 10:15 AM, I would not allow them into my class to write the test. I repeated this more than five times so that they would not think it was a joke.

On the day of the test, I had arrived campus around 9:50 AM but went straight to my office to prepare the test questions.

At around 10:10 AM, I walked into the class and found that it was quite full already.

Students will largely behave themselves once you add a negative consequence to not following a given instruction. Even the perpetual late-comers were in class before 10:10 AM.

Is God not amazing?

“Class Rep, are we expecting anyone else?”

“Like 8 more people are yet to arrive, sir”

“Okay, they still have 5 minutes of grace.”

While waiting, the first person came in. Second, third and fourth came in as well. At 10:15 AM on the dot, the fifth person rushed in, panting like she had been running an Olympic 100m hurdle like our dear Tobi Amusan.

“Are you okay?”, I showed concern.

“Yes sir”, she managed to respond.

“You need some water?”

“No sir. I just need to relax”

“Alright then. Glad you made it at the nick of time”.

And like I said I would, I closed the door at exactly 10:16 AM with 3 more students yet to arrive.

As I was dishing out the test instructions, two students suddenly walked in at 10:20 AM.

“You are 5 minutes late; therefore, you will not be permitted to write the test.”

Then one of them raised her hand. Let’s call her, Mary.

“Go ahead”

“Ermm sir, my house is far o. I trekked from home to school. See my face sir; I am sweating profusely. That is why I came late. I didn’t have transport fare. I had to walk down from Obakekere to Obanla.”

“Mary, where in Obakekere do you live?”

“Aba area”

I smiled and replied, “while I was a student, I lived at Lydia along FUTA Southgate road opposite the Four Square Church. Many times, I walked from Lydia to Obanla (ETF hall) for lectures in 100 Level, at a time when I literally had nothing.

Did you know that I got to class on time?

And that’s because I already knew that it took me 40 minutes to complete the distance on foot. So, if I have a class at 10:00 AM, I must leave home latest by 9:20 AM, if not, I would be late.

Why didn’t you leave earlier since you were coming from Aba on foot?”

“Sir, my house is far o.”

“I also gave you the grace of 15 minutes; you still arrived late”

“Sir, that 15 minutes was not enough. In my own case, I need like 40 minutes.”

“Oh wow. You are such an ingrate! Within the 15 minutes, more than 99% of your class arrived on time. I am sure many of them came from places farther than Aba. How come it wasn’t enough for you?”

“Sir, I walked from Aba”, she kept reiterating.

“Mary, it looks like you are not getting it at all. You think you deserve some empathy because you walked. No you don’t! You are the one wrong here for not waking up earlier since you knew you were going to walk. That is called self-discipline and a strong sense of personal responsibility.”

At this point, she had exhausted all her excuses, so decided to be quiet.

I then instructed the two late-comers to stay outside. While they were outside, it finally dawned on Mary that she needed to apologise for being wrong. So she shouted from outside the classroom, “I am sorry sir! Please forgive me for coming late sir!”

I walked to her and said, “I am glad you have finally learned how to accept and respond to a fault. You do not start with baseless excuses, hoping that your fault will disappear into thin air. Instead, you must start with a sense of remorse for the wrong doing.

If you are asked why you came late, you can then explain the error you committed rather than talk about it as a credible reason deserving a pardon.

You are in FUTA not only for learning but for the building of a sound character. Today, you will miss the test so that you can learn self-discipline and personal responsibility.

If I allow you write the test, your colleagues who came early will realise that I have failed to uphold some core values such as punctuality and responsibility. So, why should any of them take such important values seriously after they graduate?

The test is only for 15 minutes for a maximum score of 20 marks, so you still have 80 marks to fight for in this course. All is not lost. I only hope you learn from this going forward.”

I went back into the class, closed the door and conducted the test with those who arrived early.

When I was a student, such a long conversation with an offender was usually not tolerated.

You will hear statements like: “Why are you explaining her faults to her? Send her out of the class if she is not sensible enough to realise her error.”

Well, times have changed.

Today, I consider it unwise to execute punishment without, at least, telling the offender in clear terms why he or she is being punished.

Not even in today’s world where Gen-Z students are very expressive and bold. They will ask bold questions, and sometimes question your judgement. It is your duty to also explain in clear words why they are wrong.

It may sound like a debate, but it isn’t. It is more like an intellectual conversation between two adults to establish the facts of a matter. This enables them accept the punishment in good fate rather than tag you as a sadistic tutor who is immune to empathy.

I believe that the reason many of them find it very difficult to apologise when they err is because they find the act embarrassing. Therefore, they look for all the explanations in their heads to prevent them from facing an “embarrassing” situation. Lol

They fail to realise that it is even a quick and genuine apology that will actually rescue them from the embarrassment they fear.

It is our duty as millennial lecturers to recognise this, and be painstaking with the way we correct this ingrained belief.

For example, if I did not take my time to address Mary and to teach her a lesson on punctuality and self-discipline, she may graduate and end up becoming a problem to her first employer.

Why?

Because values which should make her succeed in the corporate/professional setting have not been inculcated into her.

Let’s see these students as our personal responsibilities; to continue the basic training from where their parents stopped.

Everything in the classroom shouldn’t just be about delivering a courseware, lecturers must also learn to uphold attitudinal values of professional importance.

I hope you enjoyed Episode 3?

Watch out for Episode 4.

PS: Mary eventually had a B grade in the course.

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