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What Your Professor Really Wants you to Know

I decided to stray away from my usual topics today. As you may know, I am a college professor. I have been teaching on the college level for 23 years now.  I have seen a lot of students come and go, some successfully, some not.  As I am preparing for another semester and another freshman class begins their college career, I decided to share a few thoughts that might help the new (or returning) college student to start the year on the right foot.

  Your syllabus is your guide to life for the next four months.  

Whether your instructor posts your syllabus (or course outline or lecture schedule) online or hands you a paper copy the first day of class, consider it the outline for your activities for the semester.  Get yourself a calendar, yes a paper calendar, and mark down the due date for every assignment, exam dates, meeting dates, etc. Schedule your social activities, family events and vacations, doctor's appointments, etc. around these dates.  Do yourself a favor, don't plan a road trip the weekend before your midterm.  No, you will not study on the road.  Don't plan a doctor's appointment an hour before class.  No, you will not be done on time. You know at the beginning of the semester when the projects are due, do not wait until the night before to start, we can tell and your grade will reflect it. 

Here is an excellent article regarding the proper use of a syllabus: Use a Syllabus      

Purchase or download a calendar that fits your specific needs.  Do you want a large one with lots of room for school, personal and social dates and details, or a small one that can fit in your purse or backpack?  Will a pretty agenda tempt you to use it more often? Does an annual calendar or an academic year calendar work best for you?  I find that I prefer a pretty, 18 month calendar with Post-it tabs to mark important dates and different colored pens for different types of entries.  Others may prefer a more professional version that can be used at school and at work.  It is up to you what type you use, but get one and use it! 

   Ask questions.  

Your professors are there to help you. Really, we do not mind if you ask questions before, during and after class. We enjoy your visits during office hours.  Answering your email messages is part of our job and is not a bother.  No, there is no such thing as a dumb question that is being asked sincerely and thoughtfully by a student who is interested and paying attention.

 Follow directions.  

Yes, it seems obvious, but for every assignment I give at least someone does not follow the instructions.  Even if you think you know what to do, read the directions anyway. 

   Education is a two-way street

It is your teacher's job to teach you, but it is your job to learn. Participate in class, do your homework, ask questions, read the textbook, and study every day. Education experts will tell you that you need to spend three hours each week studying for every one hour you spend in class.  For most college level classes this means that you should be studying at least nine hours a week per class per week.  Starting the first week!

Use the resources your school has to help you.  

Regardless of where you go to school there are staff members there to help you with academic advising, career planning, disability services, tutoring needs, etc.  You are paying for these resources, use them if you need them. As an aside, there are often entertainment events- concerts, movies, plays, art shows, sporting events, etc. that are hosted by your school.  Often for free. Take advantage of these opportunities as well.

 In my classroom we really only have one rule- Respect Yourself and Others.  

You  already know what it means to respect others, but do you know what I mean by respecting yourself? You should appreciate the opportunity that you have to get an education and love the person that you are enough to gain every advantage that you can. Be on time for class, listen to the teacher, do your homework, don't spend your time in class texting or surfing the web.  Ask questions, get a tutor if you need it. Participate in class discussions. Study for the exams.    Sleep the night before your class, not in class. Eat before class, not during or wait until after.  If you are not well nourished or you are tired you are not going to learn.  I guess this section may be considered an extension of numbers 4 and 5, but it is, in and of itself, equally important. Many of us are concerned about how we treat others, but do not necessarily consider how we treat ourselves to be important.  Respect yourself enough to grab this wonderful opportunity that you have been given and get everything from it that you can.

We hate to give bad grades. 

No, I do not like to fail students.  The most difficult part of my day is grading papers.  Not because it is a chore, but because I sometimes have to give a low grade to a student.  I want my students to succeed.  We all do.  We do not like to give poor grades, but sometimes it has to be done, usually because a student has failed to do one of the above. I would prefer to give everyone an     


I tell my students that teachers are not teaching because of the high salaries, luxurious workplaces and overwhelming respect from members of society.  We teach because we love it and we want our students to succeed.  It is an amazing reward to see a student achieve their dreams and succeed in their chosen profession! 

Thanks for stopping by today.  If you are going to school- I hope you have an enjoyable and successful school year.  If you are a parent, grandparent or friend of someone going to school this fall, I hope that you will share this information with them and wish them a good year from me as well! 


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