Notes from The Professor

April 28, 2011

Matt: the aimless

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Professor @ 8:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Lest you think I am a Pollyanna or a liar, I suppose it’s time to admit that there are some students I just don’t care that much about. I picked on the KKKKKs, the pleasant but indistinguishable young girls, a couple of weeks ago, so let me tell you about Matt, the indistinguishable young guy(s).

Matt schlepps into class twenty minutes late every single damned day he bothers to show up, which is a little over half the time. He’s wearing baggy jeans or cargo shorts, depending on the season; a hoodie or logo Tshirt; and some sort of headwear that’s supposed to camouflage his lack of hygiene, usually a stocking or baseball cap. He looks like he has just rolled out of bed, because he has.

Count on Matt to skip days when an assignment is due, only to show up the next class day and act shocked when I won’t accept it.

Matt: “Here’s my paper.”

Me: “Thanks, but it was due last time.”

Matt: “Right, but I wasn’t here last time.”

Me: “I know. But that’s when it was due.”

Matt: “But I was absent that day.”

You see where I’m going with this? Or not going, as the case may be.

Matt’s generically attractive face looks utterly blank when he’s called on. He does not have his book, or if he does, he has not read the assignment. When given class time to work on something, he will instead check his Facebook page and scroll through pictures of his pals back at the U doing beer bongs. (I know this because I can see all the computer screens in the classroom from the instructor’s terminal. Technically I can block certain sites, but they are chronologically adults, and I’m not a micromanager. Besides, sometimes the pictures are entertaining.) When I circulate around the room, he comes up with some earnest question to distract my attention from the fact that he isn’t farther along in his work. He is always very polite, despite his apparent disinterest in just about everything, with the possible exception of the girl who sits in front of him, and only if she’s a KKKKK.

Maybe Matt is here because he drank so much beer at the State University he could’t be bothered to go to class. His parents have yanked him out of school and sentenced him to a couple of quarters at community college–possibly to rehabilitate his GPA, or perhaps just to save the many thousands of dollars they were wasting on tuition, room and board only to have Matt fritter it away. Or, he might be here because he prefers playing Xbox in his parents’ basement to any future he might be working toward, and Mom and Dad have made school a condition for his continued mooching their continued support. Or perhaps Matt has decided that being a line cook at crApplebees isn’t the best terminal career goal. There may be many, many reasons why Matt has landed here, but one thing is consistent: he has very little idea of where he might be headed.

At the end of the quarter, Matt will be very disappointed in his grade. He won’t understand why, despite turning in some reasonably well-written papers, he did not earn at least a B. He seems to have completely forgotten that every paper was late, every draft incomplete, every in-class assignment done haphazardly, and that he was late or absent more than half the time. When he is reminded of this, he seems nonplussed that I am actually holding him to the standards that are clearly spelled out on the syllabus. By the end of the quarter, I’ll have trouble being polite to him.

Of course it is unfair to generalize about young male students this way. Fortunately, there are only a couple of these guys in each class, and there are many other young men who do not fit this stereotype, along with some girls who do. But I am curious and a little bit alarmed by the difference between young men and young women. Anecdotally, it seems that guys suffer from a sort of malaise and lack of direction that does not afflict their female counterparts nearly as badly. Recent research has shown that college attendance and completion rates are significantly higher for women than for men. What is happening–or not happening–to these guys that makes them so, well, Matt-like?



  1. Oh no! My son, Sam, is a Matt!!! As a career college president, I despair about my son. He was in gifted classrooms beginning in the 3rd grade. He tested at the 99th percentile throughout his school career. Yet he is completely satisfied with mediocrity and always has been. He simply has no need to make A’s. He would be happy with C’s if left to his own devices. But I have told him that I only pay for A’s and B’s. If he earns a C, he must reimburse me for his tuition. That has happened only once. He can learn!

    I have resolved to try to let go of the need for him to be more like me (as a student, that is). He is a wonderful human being. He’s generous, witty, charismatic, attractive, kind and handsome. Throughout his school years, his teachers have told me, “Sam is smart and sweet and funny, but … (fill in the blank with whatever annoying thing he is doing at that moment).” Surely he will find his place in the world! But until he does, I will worry.

    Comment by Catherine — April 29, 2011 @ 8:01 am | Reply

  2. I too know and love a “Matt” who wasn’t always a “Matt,” and I can only surmise that the challenges he has had have temporarily overridden his intelligence while he chooses a darker, less productive path. I only hope the downward shift actually is temporary, and that he seizes his brains again, rights his life, and makes something honest of himself.

    So strange–right now, as I’m writing this, someone in my neighborhood is outside yelling “Matt!” over and over again.

    Comment by Britton Minor — April 29, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  3. I had a “Matt” too. His first semester in university produced a single passing grade. I gave him a choice: pay your own tuition or go to community college. He chose to pay for another semester at university and frittered his money away. He enrolled in community college and wasted more time, although a lot less money. Then, he found a niche and he grew up. I think sometimes young adults just aren’t ready for continued education, no matter where it is. My son is now 30, educated, and making his way in this world very successfully. I think college/university would have been fine for him at 24 or 25…but at 18, he was just too immature.

    Comment by C — May 13, 2011 @ 1:23 pm | Reply

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