For those of us in academia, this is the time our attention turns to the many new students we are about to greet and how to help them have the best semester possible. Like you, I spend days thinking about the ways I can facilitate their learning in the subject area as well in the more general (but important) category of “How to be a Successful Student in My Class.”
It is, of course, my responsibility to create the structure and active learning activities, vary my approach, remain available for extra help and present information using an engaging style. However, it is the student’s responsibility to be present in a way that makes learning possible. To that end, here are five statements I’d like put on a sandwich board. I’d roam the halls wearing it.
- Interact with us. If you interact with us in some way, we’ll easily remember your name. Come up and talk after class for a moment. Visit us during our office hours. Ask or answer questions in class. If you don’t do these things, please do not be offended if we can’t recall your name. Remember: this semester you have six professors, maybe. We might have 150 students. Interact with us.
- The syllabus and course schedule is not for our amusement. It takes us HOURS to develop your course schedule. There is no formula or template for professors to use. We don’t go to the Internet and copy and paste a random timeline. We create a schedule of activities and assignments that we believe is engaging and helpful to your learning. By giving this to you, you can come to class prepared.Read the chapters. Do the assignments. Be unsurprised by the case analysis work. The syllabus is your guide and your promise. It has items for which we are accountable to you and for which you are accountable to us.
- And while we’re talking about the course schedule…We may take occasional opportunities to remind you of due dates, but on the first day of class you will have all of them. (Please see above.) It is your job as a college student to stay on top of the work for the semester. The schedule is a handy tool to help you.
- Attendance is crucial. There are no truant officers in higher education—not that I’ve seen. But it’s still a good idea to attend your classes. When you miss classes you are missing opportunities to gain the benefit of not only our specific help, but also of our insights and examples as well as the insights and examples of your classmates. What benefit? Clear understanding of course concepts.
- Your character matters. Have integrity. Make sure your actions match your words. Be more than truthful—be forthright. Have consideration for your colleagues and your professors, too. (I promise we have great care and concern for you.) If you don’t know what else to do in a particular situation, simply be kind.
I admit it might be a bad idea to walk around the halls of education wearing this sandwich board. It would be too long and too heavy to carry. But my students hear these things from me every semester.
Some of them even listen.
Submitted by Robyn-Jay Bage