A friend is a tenured prof at a local university and teaches the 9 AM organic section. My friend lamented the consumer behavior of students in O-Chem and mentioned getting slaughtered on some internet ratings site. Tenure is not an issue for this prof, but student evaluations are still a big deal.

The question my friend has trouble with is this jewel- “Is this going to be on the test”? This arouses considerable frustration and ill humor. Some profs have no taste for this cat & mouse stuff and will be upfront with what is on the exam. Others are more elusive and Darwinistic. One wonders if these lone standard bearers could have excelled on their own exams when they were in school.

We discussed the possibility of suitable replies that are courteous but firm. There is no need or benefit to a smackdown for insolence. Basically, students need to recognize the main themes of the chapters and answer reasonable questions therefrom. The key is to do the problems. That has always been the key to orgo.

Some have been scornful about “teaching from the book” and supplement their curriculum with content that suits their fancy. I think this is fine for certain upper level coursework. Where this strategy fails is when students need to comprehend the pillars of chemistry for later and more advanced concepts. Then other content becomes a kind of distracting indulgence. Chemistry is vertical.

The problem is that the academic expectations may ratchet up a few notches in college. Students who may be accustomed to getting good grades without too much sweat are often mortally threatened by the prospects of getting less than an A. But this is just a part of the total growth experience and a good prof will be sensitive to this frailty. The trick is to help these students find their own path and go for it.