The start of the school year is always the same. Students shuffle into my classes bearing the same looks as their predecessors. Few seem genuinely excited to start the year anew. Some are deer in headlights, but the majority are zombies.
Zombies in the classroom have become increasingly problematic for professors, but students aren’t born zombies. They’re turned into zombies, and the transformation doesn’t happen overnight.
Down deep they’re still in there, alive, interested, engaged, and breathing, but somehow, some way, somewhere they came into contact with something, and the infection spread. Some are at more severe stages than others, but all are a threat.
If a professor doesn’t eradicate the zombie problem in their classroom they risk exposing uninfected students to the disease, becoming infected themselves and, worst of all, having a long, frustrating, and shitty school year.
STEP 1: Identify the Zombies
The first step to slaying the zombies is to identify them. This step should not be overlooked, and it certainly shouldn’t be underestimated. Whereas some zombies are easily identifiable, others are much harder to detect.
Types of Zombies
There are several categories of zombies you should be aware of, each one posing a different challenge to the professor.
The Obvious Zom (OZs)
The likelihood of coming into contact with the Obvious Zom is greater if you’re teaching lower-division, general education courses where they often migrate in larger numbers.
Obvious Zoms, however, have been spotted roaming around higher division courses, but they don’t seem to travel in as large of packs in those classrooms.
Obvious Zoms drag their bodies to their seats and then slouch there, mouth agape, vacantly staring into space, grunting inaudible responses whenever called upon.
Obvious Zoms are often seen wearing mismatched pajamas, the same outfit four weeks in a row, or the standard sport shorts, hoodie, and ball cap.
When not capped, their hair is often unkempt and they’re not particular about personal hygiene. If you come into close contact with an Obvious Zom don’t be surprised to smell that they have not bathed, used deodorant, or brushed their teeth.
It must also be noted that depending on the time of day, it’s likely an Obvious Zom has not fed. If they have fed, they probably didn’t do it properly.
As easy as it is to identify Obvious Zoms, it’s equally easy to misidentify them. The indicators above match the description of most college students, but contrary to what some may believe, there are many students fitting the description of an Obvious Zom who are not yet zombies.
Try not to judge a book by its cover. If you’re in doubt whether you’re dealing with an Obvious Zom or just a sloppy student, check their eyes. Look at the suspects in question more frequently during lectures and especially during videos. You won’t have to look long. Obvious Zoms typically reveal themselves quickly, hence the name.
More tactical tips are discussed in Step 3 Gathering Your Weapons.
The Splinter Cell (SCs)
Splinter Cells are much harder to detect than Obvious Zoms, and they are more effective at infecting others.
The Splinter Cell is typically savvier than the Obvious Zom, and some Splinter Cells confuse their savvy nature for knowledge of course material. Others use it to hide how much the infection has progressed.
You can’t identify a Splinter Cell by their appearance. They may share some similarities with the Obvious Zom, but many have good personal hygiene and tend to sport trendy or professional attire on occasion. Splinter Cells reveal themselves not through dress but through their behavior.
Splinter Cells are more social than the Obvious Zom. Their sociability comes in two forms, either with other students in the class or with electronic devices. Some display a talent for both.
Splinter Cells are focused on anything but the task at hand, and if left unchecked, the more efficient ones can infect the entire room before the professor has time to change the slide.
Students who have had too much caffeine, sweets, and excitement or distress in their personal lives can be mistaken for a Splinter Cell.
The Baby Zom (BZs)
The Baby Zoms are students who’ve only recently come into contact with the infection. The best part about dealing with a Baby Zom is that they’re easier to cure, if the infection is caught in time.
Baby Zoms are just starting their college careers. High school was not challenging and it’s likely they have never been required to do much intellectual thinking. Most are unaware that they’ve been exposed, and many don’t understand the severity of the disease.
Don’t be fooled by their youth. If Baby Zoms go undiagnosed, the infection has the potential to spread and eventually turn them into either an Elder Zom or an Angry Zom, which are much more difficult zombies to defeat.
The Elder Zom (EZs)
The Elder Zoms are at the end of their college careers and have either chosen the wrong major or their education was not challenging enough. It’s likely that, like the Baby Zom, Elder Zoms have never been required to do much intellectual thinking.
Elder Zoms are painfully aware of their infection. They’re smothered by it and they feel helpless against its will. They don’t want to be a zombie, but they have little strength to fight the infection.
As tired as Elder Zoms are emotionally, the infection inside them is strong. There’s potential to light a fire inside Elder Zoms, but the wood is often buried close to the heart of the infection and there is barely any oxygen in the chamber. You might get the flame to catch for a moment, but the disease usually snuffs it out before it has a chance to burn.
It’s easy to dismiss Elder Zoms as a lost cause. Elder Zoms want to be saved. They recognize what the infection is doing to them, but many have a sense of hopelessness and don’t know how to ask for help.
The Angry Zom (AZs)
Angry Zoms are Elder Zoms who don’t want to be saved. Many don’t see the value of education or they have passion for other areas of interest. Often Angry Zoms feel pressure from society or family to earn a college degree.
Angry Zoms are disappointed with their academic careers and they sometimes act out their frustration by disappearing for weeks on end. Angry Zoms have no intention of seeking treatment and resent those who offer it.
It’s easy to lose your temper when dealing with an Angry Zom. Keep in mind the Angry Zom distrusts professors because they have not had a good educational experience. Be patient when battling Angry Zoms and try not to take the attacks personally. It’s not the student acting out, it’s the infection.
The Nearly Zom (NZs)
Nearly Zoms are not total zombies, but they have been exposed to enough of the infection that they could become one at any minute. These students are in need of immediate treatment.
Nearly Zoms are typically students in the beginning or middle of their academic careers. They are fairly easy to spot due to their defensive posture and cavalier body language.
Nearly Zoms usually sit towards the back of the room but some prefer to sit off to the side away from other students.
This defense mechanism is a testament to their intelligence. Many Nearly Zoms are aware that they have been infected but often have low expectations for a full recovery.
Despite low expectations, Nearly Zoms still have a small flame burning inside them. It’s dwindling, but there’s still a part of these students not yet infected.
The Nearly Zom’s challenging and defensive nature can be misinterpreted as arrogance. Try to remember that Nearly Zoms aren’t necessarily arrogant. They’re suspicious. It’s part of the armor they’ve use to try to protect themselves from the disease.
Get A Strategy Together Quickly
Nothing will suck your passion for teaching quicker than a room full of zombies. Immediate zombie ID can help pave the way to a successful school year. Only by understanding what you’re up against can you develop a strong strategy and assemble the appropriate weapons to help you achieve victory on the academic battlefield.