Surviving lectures

In my three years at Laurier, I’ve never seen a student’s attention span survive a three-hour lecture. Nor a two-hour lecture, now that I come to think of it. Even 90 minute lectures are pretty sketchy.

Frankly, lectures suck. They require you to sit still for hours at a time and achieve the nearly impossible for our generation: focus on one person speaking.

This person – your professor – will inevitably be one of two types of people. The first type is the rambler; the kind of professor that will spend the majority of the class telling anecdotes and straying hopelessly off topic in an attempt to keep students interested. But somewhere between hearing about your professor’s children and discussing episodes of Seinfeld, you’ll start to wonder what the hell you were even supposed to be learning in the first place.

The other type of lecturer is the power-pointer, the kind of prof that will make you scribble down notes off of slides until writer’s cramp turns your hand into a permanent claw-like deformity.

In essence, no matter how experienced or interesting your professor is, lectures are unfailingly painful.

And that’s not even to mention how crappy an experience it is to sit in a room with 199 other students.

Nothing I’m aware of will make you lose faith in humanity faster than having to put up with strangers as your classmates.

There’s the archetypal asks-a-question-every-time-the-prof-takes-a-breath-girl, the frustrating 30-year-old-who-for-some-reason-took-first-year-history-just-so-he-could-show-the-prof-he-knows-more-about-some-obscure-crap-guy and the much loathed group-of-three-girls-who-are-actually-stupid-enough-to-think-that-nobody-can-hear-them-talk-in-the-back-row.

There are snorers, farters, sneezers, gigglers, whisperers, fast-typers, movie-watchers and desk-tappers. And just when you realize that you hate everybody in your class, you’ll start to get paranoid thinking about how many of them probably hate you for doing something you’re not even aware of. Because when you’re bored, hating people for no reason becomes as good a passtime as any.

So how can you make the most of the countless hours you’re about to dump into lecture time without either dropping out or daydreaming so much that people think you’re prone to having minor strokes? My friends, it’s all about planning your distractions.

To the inexperienced lecture-goer, this might mean bringing your laptop along with you to take notes and browse the Internet. But this is a mistake. The Internet is too strong of a distraction. One minute you’ll jump to Wikipedia to get clarification on something the professor said, and the next thing you know you’ve spent two hours watching videos of kids getting hit in the nuts with soccer balls. Folks, leave the laptop at home.

A much better idea is to incorporate lecture material into your time-wasting activities. In first-year philosophy, I spent three whole lectures drawing a comic battle royale between classic philosophers. Surprisingly, making John Locke cut off Thomas Hobbes’ arm with a chainsaw really helped the material sink in.

Another strategy is to co-ordinate shifts with your friends. If you and three friends each take detailed notes for 30 minutes, you can put them all together when it’s time to study for the midterm.

As long as you accept the fact that you, like all of your peers, have an attention span of about 20 minutes, you can start working on all sorts of creative ways to get out of your lectures alive.

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