This time of year, I get lots of sad stories in my office… and I get lots of happy endings in my office as well…
The sad stories generally have one thing in common, a student who didn’t take advantage of the resources available to them. Usually my students don’t have intellectual deficits, their troubles are generally either a lack of time or an inability to use the time they have to do the work they need to do.
They also don’t make connections with their professors.
I’m going to share a dirty little secret about professors — we’re people.. yep, people just like you. We have personal lives that have drama, we have money troubles, we get sick, we pee and we also want our students to do well.
One of the most important things you can do, if you’re struggling with material, is to make a connection to someone who understands it — your professor is a good start, maybe a classmate who says smart things in class or even a tutor… yep, a tutor. Someone who is paid to work with you to help you understand this stuff. You don’t need to struggle by yourself — ask questions in class, get help outside of class and do it when you first start to not understand something… don’t wait — the class will only move on without you, especially if you don’t ask questions.
Also, realize that your professor’s class is a work in progress for them — so, if something works for you, speak up and let them know you appreciate it (similar to a “like” on facebook, you can do that — I’m sure) — and if something isn’t working for you, get the information another way — by asking questions. For a professor, a question is an indication that something wasn’t clear and also a signal that they need to explain in a new way — and the good ones have many ways of explaining the same thing.
We also appreciate thoughtful challenges in class — if you see the material, argument or whatever in a different way –speak up. You may have a faulty premise, and your professor will figure that out quickly and use it as a teaching moment… but they also may use your question to learn something about the material they hadn’t thought of.. and they LOVE that. Plus, it makes them realize you’ve actually done your homework — which is a plus in their book.
The other thing we love is when you make new connections to the material — either drawing in other course material or devising answers we haven’t seen before… I especially love this when I’m grading logic quizzes — a novel approach to a logic problem I’ve been grading for years is like finding $50 in your winter coat pocket…
So, make the most out of your college experience… you’ll miss it when it’s over, trust me.