Thursday, 18 August 2011

Can You Top This?

Recently, a colleague said to me:

I just had the strangest interaction with a student.

He was quite emphatic that this was the strangest interaction ever.

Knowing this colleague and many of his students, I was skeptical. Here is what happened:

He was talking to an undergraduate student about the student's summer research results. In mid-conversation, while my colleague was speaking directly to the student, the student fell sound asleep, sitting upright in a chair. This was not in a class; this was a one-on-one conversation in the professor's office.

Did the student faint or have another health problem? No, according to the student.

Did the student stay up all night working (or whatever) and succumb to sleep owing to severe sleep deprivation? No, the student claimed to be "quite well rested".

[Memo to students who fall asleep while in conversation with a professor: It's better/nicer to say you are severely sleep deprived.]

Fortunately, this colleague and I were en route to caffeine when he told me this story, otherwise I would have dropped off to sleep. He has that effect on people. Apparently.

Actually, I was fascinated. It would be weird and disconcerting to have a student fall asleep in the middle of a conversation.

Even so, I expressed my skepticism that it was the strangest student-professor incident he had ever experienced, and mentioned a few spectacular examples from the past. For each one of these examples, he said "Yes, but s/he was crazy." Yes... true.

His point is that this was the strangest experience he had ever had while interacting with an apparently sane and healthy student.

Have any of you ever had a (healthy, non-narcoleptic) student drop off to sleep in the middle of a one-on-one conversation? What did you do? Wake them up? Sit quietly and wait for them to wake up? Walk away? Put an embarrassing sign on their back? Call 911?

Year ago, some friends and I handcuffed a sleeping student to an egg-beater (the manual kind), but I was also a student at the time, so this was OK. Now that I am a responsible and mature professor, I might think about handcuffing someone to an eggbeater, but I wouldn't actually do it.

Please share your stories of strange (but not crazy/disturbing) incidents of professor-student interactions.

I have previously requested examples of the strangest things to happen in class, but now we are considering one-on-one professional interactions between professors and students. I am hoping to be impressed by a wide array of weird-but-not-too-disturbing incidents.

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