Friday, December 09, 2011

Pro tip

Though probably none of you reading this need it. But maybe you could pass it on to college-bound students of your acquaintance?

The question, "Is there anything I can do to improve my grade?" is not a bad question. If it is asked in, say, the third or fourth week of the semester, after the first exam turned out to be harder than expected, or the student earned a grade lower than what they had hoped for. In fact, "Is there anything I can do to improve my grade?" is a very GOOD question when asked early in the semester and coupled with a true desire to do the things to improve their grade.

Here are some things I would suggest:

1. Bring your class notes to me, let me look over them. I may be able to give pointers on how to take better or easier notes.

2. Attend class regularly if you have not been.

3. Read over your notes every day after class. If there are things you are unclear on, write down what they are. Come to my office hours and ask me about them, or ask me about them when I ask in class if anyone has any questions

4. Evaluate your study skills. If what you're doing is not working, try something different. For example: studying with friends is usually not as good an idea as it sounds. At least, it never was for me.

5. Find a tutor. You can do that through either official on-campus services, and also many of our TAs like to earn a little extra money on the side doing tutoring. There are also some online resources our campus recently adopted.

6. Read the textbook. At the end of every chapter, read the questions given there and be sure you can answer them. While I don't use those questions on my tests, they still cover the same topics.

...and so forth. So if you come to me early in the semester wanting to improve your grade, great, I have lots of ideas.

What is not so good? Calling me up after the last day of classes and asking if there is anything you can do to improve your grade. Because short of pulling a real Hail Mary on the final exam, the answer's no. And another pro-tip: I know I've said this before but: Don't piss off the person who will be grading you. And yes, it does kind of piss me off to field calls from ten different people all wanting to know the same thing. Even though it says in the syllabus NO EXTRA CREDIT NO WAY NO HOW NOT EVER DON'T EVEN ASK, I know that's really what you're asking with "Is there anything I can do to improve my grade?"

Because it just makes you look like a delusional and unrealistic person, frankly. Would you go to the IRS after doing your taxes and say, "Is there anything I can do to owe you less money?" Or to your credit-card company, and say, "Is there anything I can do to get my interest percent lowered?" Or to your boss to say, "Is there anything I can do to be able to work fewer hours in a week?"

What's almost worse than asking about "improving" your grade on the last day of school? Coming in and saying you want to get help, setting up a crapton of appointments to see me, and BREAKING EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Yes, Mr. Football Hero, I'm looking at you. Yes, I know, football is hard. Coach expects a lot of you. But maybe you could make your freaking appointments with me during, I don't know, my MORNING office hours instead of asking me to stay after my office hours are officially over and then never showing, and then saying the next day in class, "Um, yeah, Coach called an extra practice."

(My rant about how campuses tend to exploit their athletes - another rant for another time).

I wound up taking my phone off the hook this afternoon so I could finish up some research I really needed to finish without being interrupted every five freaking minutes.

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