The Top Ten Things Students Should Know


Every term I get a new crop of students and they always tell me they are going to get a 4.0 in my class.  I know this won’t happen (usually only around 10-20% will score that well) but I tell them to do their best and we will see how they do.  Around half-way through the term a number of them come to me and ask what they can do to improve their grade and I try to help them, but by then the habits that are failing them are set in.  So I thought I would take a moment to write down a few things I have observed.

  1. Come to class, no seriously, come.  If you skip class or worse, sleep through class, you can never hope to get an understanding of anything more than the most basic concepts.
  2. A class is only as active as the students want it to be.  I plan a number of interactive components into my lessons, but often they just fall flat because when I ask for your participation you just stare at me and wait for me to fill in the silence.  Ask questions, respond to queries, these are the ways to make learning more active and it helps to integrate the information in your head better.
  3. Do the reading.  If class is the first time you have seen the concepts we are going to discuss, you are already behind the curve.  Read all materials assigned so you can come prepared to ask questions about the materials that make no sense.
  4. Take notes, and then rewrite them.  I publish all my PowerPoint slides of my lectures, but again, learning is not a passive process.  You need to take notes over materials before class and then go over them during and after class to fill in the blanks and reorganize the materials for your own cognitive map.
  5. Your handwriting, spelling and grammar count.  I know this isn’t a writing class, but at the same time I can only assess what you actually wrote (and can interpret), not what you intended the scribble to mean.  Misplaced punctuation, careless spelling, poor penmanship can all lead to your answer saying something completely different than you intended.
  6. Deadlines are there for a reason.  Just like in a job, I have expectations of when your work should be done and I stick to them.  This is laid out at the beginning of the course and you will suffer consequences if you do not meet the deadlines.
  7. Come to me with solutions not excuses.  As I learned in business, the person who comes with a solution to a problem they are presenting is listened to more than someone who just comes with excuses for why the problem exists.
  8. Come to think of it, just come see me for starters.  If you avoid me after class and then ignore poor grades, I assume you don’t care about your grade.  If you need help, seek it out.  I may be intimidating, but it is time to put the big kid underoos on and learn to ask for help.  Your grade is your own, take responsibility for it and its outcome.
  9. If you make a mistake, own up to it.  If you do something you shouldn’t (we are talking academic dishonesty here), the consequences will be much worse if I have to call you out on it.  If you do something you shouldn’t, don’t make excuses and hide from it, accept that you did wrong and face the consequences.  Honest contrition can go a long way.
  10. In the end, realize your grade is your own and it is a summation of all your work.  The grade for a course is not decided on a single exam or project.  The grade for a course is the product of many, many assessments all summed together.  It is similar to when a basketball player is harassed for not making the last second shot, does he bear the whole burden of the team losing?  What about his teammate who shot two for twenty from the free-throw line or the other teammate that kept laying bricks from the three point line, don’t they share some of the blame for the lose?  Your grade is about your performance through out the term, if you do poorly at the beginning it will be hard to pull it up at the end.  Likewise, if you become lazy at the end, the grade can plummet.  No one gives you a grade, you earn it.