David Letterman has his nightly "Top Ten" list. This college professor decided to create her own. You want an A in my class? Earn it. You want my approval, respect, and a striking letter of recommendation as you pursue personal and professional goals? Take note of the Top Ten.
TOP TEN WAYS TO IMPRESS YOUR COLLEGE PROFESSOR
10. Don't miss the first day of class. Want to make a favorable first impression? Showing up from day one is a good start. Sure, some students don't finalize their schedules until the end of the first week and may possibly miss. Most students, however, are officially enrolled and know exactly where they should be once that first day arrives. Skipping class communicates this course is not your priority. For some odd reason, professors are offended by such obvious nonchalance. Teachers always appreciate innate academic intellect. But we also note and applaud the scholar who tries their best. Blowing off the first day of class is never one's best.
9. If there's a legitimate reason why you'll miss the first day, contact your professor beforehand, explain the circumstances, and emphasize you'll be there the rest of the quarter. Connecting in advance of your absence suggests you care about my class and my first impression of you. See the beauty of this? We haven't even met and I already like how you conduct business.
8. Show up on time. Don't be that student who is perpetually late throughout the quarter. You'll anger many professors and frankly, even perturb your peers. If you think your fellow students are forgiving of your tardiness, you're mistaken. Most dislike your blatant disrespect of the professor's time or conclude you feel like you deserve special treatment or consideration. Respectfully, the simple truth is you don't.
7. Technology can be a wonderful thing. The Internet, cell phones, iPod music...all make life more enjoyable, but that doesn't mean they belong in English 101. Know and respect your professor's policy on electronics in the classroom. When your professor says they don't want to see you texting in class, heed them. If their syllabus states no active laptops are allowed in class, oblige them. If the teacher offers no clear written or spoken policy, ask them what's acceptable. Not only do you now know the answer, you've scored brownie points for expressing an interest in classroom protocol.
6. Good teachers make themselves available to students and do so through various means. In the classroom, during office hours, over the phone, via email, or (increasingly and surprisingly), on Facebook, your questions deserve answers. But here's the thing. Please don't email us at 3:00 a.m. and expect us to send you a return response by 6:30 in the morning. It's a safe bet we're still sleeping and won't access our email until later in the day. So when you ask us if we received your email, we may just say no. It's not that we don't care; it's just that when you sent it, we were off living other aspects of our lives.
5. Offer in-class help. Perhaps you notice me struggling to move chairs and desks into a specific arrangement. Jump in and help move a few. I'm usually swarmed by students at class end; while I answer questions, erase the chalkboard. As I set up the PowerPoint presentation, see if there are handouts you can distribute. Don't think for a second in so doing you're a geek or school pet. To the contrary, you've now given me descriptive examples to use in your future recommendation letter when I describe you as "observant" and a "team player".
4. Understand that once your final grade is recorded, it's almost always a done deal. If you're struggling with class material, approach me early for suggestions on how you can study better, test better, and score better. Don't maintain status quo and assume the situation will resolve itself. We know some of you are on scholarship and/or aiming for graduate school, but we can't magically change numbers that are undeserved. Take care of your academic business while there's still time. Otherwise, the boat has sailed and your grade is onboard.
3. Follow directions. Dr. Kaleal wants single-spaced essays in Times New Roman font? Give her that. Professor Fuller wants transitions during your speech but Dr. Galyen does not? Fuller does; give him that. If you're wondering why professors advocate a certain approach, ask them. A good teacher will have a satisfying explanation for you. A student once commented that different expectations and practices in college prepared her for the flexibility required in today's working economy. I must agree.
2. Let me know if I'm doing a good job. If my lecture engaged and challenged you, tell me. If you enjoyed the new exercise we tried for the first time, let me know. If you're a better speaker, writer, thinker, or working professional at the end of the quarter, send me a handwritten thank you note. The flipside to this, of course, is helping me improve. Am I speaking too fast? Keep me posted. Am I mispronouncing your name? Correct me. Am I not clearly explaining trait theory of leadership? Ask for additional examples. I realize some professors may not welcome your suggestions for improvement. That's unfortunate and frankly, an upcoming post on this site. Look for a future Top Ten list of how college professors can best serve their students. That subject is equally blog-worthy and I'm on it.
1. Make your personalized contribution to the classroom. The best compliment I give any student occurs at quarter's end when final exams are submitted. If you hear me say, "Lauren, your presence in my class made it better than it would have been without you," know this: I was indeed impressed. Be THAT student.
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