Valentine: A guide on how to student

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer in advertising

A few weeks ago I suggested to a young man that he might consider taking some written notes while staring at me in class. “Why?” quoth he.

The answer to the question: “Because that’s what students do when they come to college: they take notes read texts, re-write notes and busily try to understand what’s going on in the universe. It ain’t easy; it takes time; it takes a lot of work.”

So, just as a player plays (as opposed to a “puh-LAY-uh,” who apparently does something else entirely) and a swimmer swims, a student students.

“Studenting” is not the same as “studying.” Studying is generally defined by all the people I talked to as, “Reading stuff that you don’t like so you can pass the test and then forget it since you won’t ever need it again anyway.”

So, in the minds of the faculty, it may be said that there are two kinds of people who are called “students.” One group is the actual students who aggressively go after the job of studenting with long hours spent acquiring the information they need, not only for tests, but also to do work, make money and spend time wisely and happily.

The other group of students should properly be called “enrollees.”

They are here, but it may be said they have a different focus. When I was an undergrad, many young men were in college simply because it seemed a better option than the Army – and it was, too. Enrollees seem to have more fun when not in class – which is often during the scheduled class meeting, believe it or not.

Some will graduate and a few will become millionaires if they aren’t already.

Faculty can usually tell the students from the enrollees after a few shared moments.

In case you decide to take up the trade, here are a couple of phrases and practices you’ll want to avoid so you might more easily be mistaken for an actual student.

1. When you pass your teacher in the Quad after having blown off the class that morning, don’t ask, “Did we do anything in class?”

The poor professor has been laboring for multiple decades to prepare material that will change your life, and asking if he or she actually turned up to earn the pay is probably more than just a little insulting.

Try this: “My heart is broken that a cruel twist of fate kept me from your class today, but my diligent reading and a close consultation with my fellow students will surely bring me as close as man may come to the wonder of your lecture. Please pray for me.”

2. Try to avoid opening your text or email message to the teacher with, “Hey dude,” (even with proper capitalization and punctuation), or, “Yo, tEacH!!! hahaha.”

3. If – and this is big – your instructor sees you gawking out the window whilst he or she is explaining the meaning of life and asks, “Why aren’t you taking notes?” try not to answer what is in your soul at the moment, to wit: “I ain’t got no pencil.” Say instead: “I dare not try to commit your wisdom to common paper; these words are meant for the enlightenment of the spirit and cannot be rendered suitably by mere mortals.”

4. If you should eventually turn up in a class, don’t bother with any inventive stories to cover your week-long absence.

If you were that creative, you would already be a novelist or a congressman.

Truth is not a good idea, either, especially if you are thinking about a version of the truth that sounds like this: “Whoa! Doc! What a Thursday, hey? I kinda got sorta’ carried away at a mixer and spent the next coupla’ days calling for Ralph at the porcelain throne, y’know? Does tequila have any medicinal value at all? Ha!” It would be better simply to say, “Nice to be back.”

Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it like a student with an improbable excuse. I swear, the dog ate my alarm clock and my paper. And my printer. I swear. Big dog. Totally big.


Column by Robert Valentine, Senior lecturer in advertising