I have been teaching at the college level (university and community college) for over two years now and I’ve already started jotting down a list of things that, in my humble opinion, any aspiring college student should not say to his or her instructor. Ok, let’s be honest, these are things that make me nuts! As I repeatedly share these stories with my son, I am hopeful that he will not say these things, even in middle or high school. I also think that these are pretty universal and could apply to a job as well as school.
So, I present, five things you should not say to your instructor:
Sorry I wasn’t in class last week. Did I miss anything important?
No, I noticed you were out and decided not to teach anything new so that you would not fall behind. Really? If you choose to miss class, that is on you. But don’t imply that nothing important happens in class or assume that I’ll give you a personal lecture if you did miss something major. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.
I won’t be able to come to class next week. Is that okay?
Fine with me. If there are any penalties for missing class, they are outlined in the syllabus. Even if there are not points associated with attendance, there are likely going to be activities that will either have points assigned to them or will enhance your learning so that you do well on whatever assignment or test is coming up. So, missing class can be a problem and you want to keep it to a minimum and only for real emergencies. That being said, you are an adult and it is your choice if you come to class or not. Asking me if it is okay is irrelevant.
Do I need to buy the textbook?
Hmmm… is there a textbook assigned for the class? If yes, then buy it. New or used, I don’t care. For the entry-level classes I teach, we do use the book and rely on it quite heavily for content and assignments. If a book is optional, it should say that in the syllabus (repeated theme here – it’s in the syllabus!).
I know it is the last day of class but I just realized that I am only a few points away from an (insert A, B, or C here, depending on the circumstance). Is there anything I can do to get more points?
Unfortunately, this comes up more than I’d like. If your instructor has set up Blackboard (or whatever system your school uses) the correct way and has written out course assignments in the syllabus (read it!), you should always have a sense of where you stand in class. Taking a look once in awhile at your grades and noting your points (or missed assignments) is a good habit to get into. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to start looking at how you are doing – by then it is likely too late. Remember, the instructor also has deadlines and other work to do so allowing everyone to submit missed assignments at the last minute adds to that workload and makes it more difficult to meet grade submission deadlines. Now, you may think, “It’s just me and only two or three short assignments, what is the big deal?” No, it is not just you. To be a fair and just instructor, I need to give everyone the same opportunities. I think students fail to realize this. So, if I give you that chance, I need to give everyone the opportunity to turn in missed work. And that may add up to a lot of last minute assignments. The schedule is in the syllabus (read it!), as is the policy about late work.
Another note, I learned a great term from another instructor awhile back – there may be a chance for “extra” credit but there is not any “instead of” credit.
I had a lot of things going on over the past few weeks (the list of things I’ve heard here are endless) so I am sorry I missed class. What can I do to make up the work?
Now, I am as sympathetic as the next guy, but, let’s face it – sometimes s#$% happens in life. I get it. It has happened to me. But this is likely as good a time as any to learn how to deal with all that stuff in a mature and responsible manner. Communication is key – if you contact me and let me know what is going on, I am very likely able to work with you to modify due dates or whatever you need. I don’t need details, just let me know that things are nutty and you are struggling to balance it all. This communication is best done as soon as possible – don’t let a lot of time go by (I’ve had students disappear for 3 or 4 or 5 weeks and then come to me with their story – that’s too long). If too much time has passed, so too has your chance to make up all the work you’ve missed. Besides the late assignment policy in the syllabus (all together now – read it!), you also need to think about the length of a semester and the amount of work needing to be done, and consider the size of the hole you are digging for yourself. Yes, there are sometimes special cases that need to be considered, but those may end up as incompletes, which is another process in itself. Communicate with me, early and often. I can be quite accommodating, if I know what is going on.
Just think of it this way – if you had a job and some things happened and you didn’t show up for work for 3 or 4 weeks without a word to your boss, what do you think would happen? Yes, you’d likely lose your job. Part of the lessons you learn in school are how to manage real life. So consider class like your job and think about what may happen if you don’t show up.
I know there are many more things that could be added to this list. If you are a teacher or employer, do you have any other words of wisdom to share?