Am I Evil for playing this trick on my students?

For the past couple years I have played a neat little ruse on my psych 101 freshman class. Sometimes it turns into a personality study and I write a report on my findings other times I just ride the wave of playing a good trick.
My office is two doors down from my first lecture hall. What I usually do on the first day is go into class early with this semester’s text and a notebook. Go to the first row right in front of the lecturn and sit down as if a student. Soon students start filing in one by one, I don’t really make much eye contact and I usually just flip through the text. Then as the room fills up and the time to start comes and goes and still said class thinks there is no prof. Everyone is a freshman so the moderately older chap in the front row is just accepted as an older student. Most of the kids are 17,18,19 and are just getting used to being the youngest on the block, after having just been the oldest in their high schools.

So I let about ten minutes pass people look around and wonder where the instructor is. Right around this time some of the little quips start coming from students about ‘how it’s the first day, at least the prof could show up on time’, etc…etc…

This is when I stand up and slowly walk back behind the lecturn and desk and start looking in the drawers…all the time the entire class is watching me now. I’m cracking up right now, and they are not so sure what to think. I’ve gotten, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing that” to “hey look at the guy, what’s he do’in” to “I wouldn’t do that if I were you”

It’s very funny if you imagine their faces.

This is when I find what I am looking for. My sport coat in the cabinet under the desk… I don it and proceed to walk around explaining my little ruse…

I introduce myself, "Hello Class, nice to see a large turnout this year…This is Fundamentals of Psychology 113 I am your instructor Mr. Phlosphr or phlosphr or just plain phlosphr, anything but ‘hey’…

They all look at each other not really knowing what to do, believe me or go get the department head and figure out who I am. Only I am the department head - or have been a few times in the past - This is when I ask them questions about how they felt when I first stood up from the stacks - seats - and started root’in through, what to them, was something I should not have been in. Sometimes I write results sometimes I don’t. But it is a good ice breaker into our first unit on Perception.

So am I evil? Or is this an acceptable ice breaker for most?

When would you trust that I am the instructor?

I think its a great gag! I would keep them going for awhile. I woulnd’t give in too soon.

If I was a student it would take me a long time to believe you were the teacher.

Evil would be if you did that to someone else’s class (especially if you had to tie up the original teacher) and then never showed up the next week as a student.

I think that’s a great way to get your students interested. I slept through my attempts at taking intro psych.

I used to do the very same thing when I taught college night courses. Only then, most of the students were adults, so I could blend in a little more easily.

Sometimes, I had to stir things up a bit. If nobody else was going to say anything in the first class, I’d try to get things moving with the “where is that instructor?” remarks. It worked well as an icebreaker.

And there were always some who did doubt that I was the real instructor–until I pulled out the class list and started taking attendance.

No, it’s not evil. It was, in my experience, a good way to start.

Doesn’t hurt anyone and makes a memorable impression.

Go for it. :slight_smile:

I like it too. I often do things like stand in weird places, have class outside, skip a class on a nice day - once a semester is all that is allowed of that - and generally make the kids feel at home and comfortable. I’m psyched for this semester because I do not have to teach 101. I got experimental and abnormal on M,W,F and interviewing and counseling on T,T. (3 hour lecture)

I loved psych and can see where that is a great way to start the class.

I always thought psych was a class best taught with interesting experiments and discussions like that instead of a lot of droning lectures from a textbook.


Abbynormal Psych - oooh, I loved that course!!

Funny gag!

I bet the freshmen think it’s funny. I would if my prof did that.

I suspected that my Psych prof was doing similar things, now this confirms that it is the case.

I didn’t see it as evil, merely condescending. (It wouldnt have been if I hadnt seen through it easily, but I did and was not amused that he could think he could get away with stuff like this.)

If I were in your class, I wouldn’t consider you to have a very high opinion of my intelligence.

No harm, no foul.

Go for it…let us know how it goes this semester!

I had a couple of profs who started off the semester with little stunts like that. As a student I always liked it when a prof started off like that, it was a good sign that it was going to be an interesting semester. In fact most of my favorite professors went to great lengths to build a strong rapport with the class, similar to your description above.

Let’s see one of my econ professors (liked him so much I took 3 of my 4 econ classes with him) let us use the “dirty” version of the textbook he had written and maintained. In this version he used examples from the sex trade industry to describe economic models, also came with the benefit of being a $10 trip to Kinko’s for the text instead of a $60 trip to the campus bookstore.

My enterpernuership instructor was also super cool. Instead of using case studies out of a text book to teach the class we actually worked with local small/new business owners to help write business plans, organize finances and other real, useful work. He also took the whole class out to shoot pool and drink (first round was on him) on the last day of the semester. Very cool guy.

I had a quite a few others that did a lot of goofy little things to keep us on our toes or make us more comfortable in class. In my experience they were always better instructors than the stuffy boring type.

So I guess what I’m saying is that no, it’s not an evil trick. If I was one your students I’d probably end up counting you amoung my favorite professors.

Of course it’s evil, you’re a psych professor. That’s what you guys DO.

As an aside, I love my psychology classes. I’ve taken about 10 psych courses and every one of the profs/instructors have been amazing.

Hey Phlosphr, you have a student that’s a doper, right?

Has he/she found you yet? Maybe it’s Ludovic? :slight_smile:

I think it’s a great way to start the first class (esp since you said you deal with perceptions the first day). Good ice breaker and good way to force them to think about the topic in a real life way. I majored in psych and would have had no problem believing you to be the teacher once you revealed it was just a “gag”. Sounds like you must be a lot like one of my favorite psych profs. :slight_smile:

You really want to freak them out, you buy some all-white candy cane, hide a piece in your hand, then grab a piece of chalk and pop the candy cane in your mouth :slight_smile:

I know professors who start thier semester like that. I don’t particularly think it is a fun thing. It may show that the prof is very immature. I believe in professional distance. So at least you got the games out of the way on the first day. Psyc 101 is a stupid class anyway (at least at my school)

You can have fun but it should be an appropriate fun. Not silly games.

I have a professor who lets the students call him by his first name. To me he is Dr. ___ because he is not my friend, he is my teacher. There has to be a distance there.

I do have friends who are on faculty and they go by their first names. I just don’t do it with ones who are my teachers.

If I had to choose, I would want a good teacher over someone who is “super cool”. I have a really great professor this semester. She is giving us work experience in writing grants for non profits. That is going to be alot of fun.

I want them to explain the material well, not be my buddy. Then again my courses are difficult and we don’t have time to play games.

My Intro Psych instructor did some things like that oh so many years ago (well, about 5 years ago I guess).

A girl burst into the classroom shortly after the beginning of class, interrupting everything, screaming at the top of her lungs “What the hell is this! What the hell is THIS!!!” brandishing some sheet of paper. “A C-minus!? A C-minus??? Who the hell do you think you are you big power-trippin’ asshole! I worked my ass off all last semester and only turned those papers in a week late 'cause my grandma died and you couldn’t have sympathy with the grading? You’re an asshole!” On and on for what seemed like forever. Then she threw the paper at him, brandished her umbrella in his direction, then stormed out of the room, screaming the whole way. He looked at us, and probably the look on our faces is what made that sadistic grin creep across his face. . .he then asked us if we could recall certain details–what did the girl look like, what was she wearing, what was she holding, what was her hair color, what kind of shoes she was wearing, etc. It was surprising how many of these obvious aspects of her appearance most people couldn’t remember. He then explained that the “upset” student was an acquaintance with whom he had arranged the whole thing. He brought her in after the fact to corroborate his explanation, and also to see how many of our recollections about her were actually correct. Fun, unconventional stuff like that was what I liked about the Psych courses I took. I had decided that if I couldn’t make it through Comp. Sci. (I’m less than a genius at math), I’d switch to psychology. It didn’t come to that, but I still think about how a second degree might be nice sometimes. . .

I like both the OP’s idea and the one that troub described. I think that they’re great ways to get the students interested. I’ve had a few profs who simply don’t make any effort to add real punch to their lectures. Those who just drone on for the whole semester soon get a reputation and people will try to avoid their classes as much as possible.

The only problem I see, since I attend a small college, is that word might get around. After trying that for a few years, it would sort of become a campus legend, and soon all the student would know that they should expect it. But that might be less of a problem if you teach at a big university.