I don’t have a lot of incredible things I’ve learned from my 4+ years at college. The list would probably be longer if I had gone to a ‘real university’ instead of a commuter school, as some of my friends regularly remind me. But such is life, you live and you learn, take your licks and keep ticking, and other cliche comments about dealing with reality.
I’ve already done a post a few semesters back about keeping the Financial Aid office in line. I won’t re-hash that for fear of beating a dead horse (I am all-on the trite statements this morning!).
My lesson today is very simple: show up to class. This is very obvious for so many reasons, but still my teachers had stories about kids who never showed up being puzzled that they couldn’t do better than a D come test-time.
Let’s see, what are good reasons to show up to class. Well, most of my teachers really preferred testing not based on what was in the (overpriced!) textbook, but what they said and was in their lecture notes. Very few of them were lame enough straight-up read the lecture slides to us and move on. They typically used the notes as an outline to remind them what to talk about, and expounded upon that. If your teacher does have slides for his/her lectures, print them out 3 to a page. That way, you get the slides in the left column and the lines on the right to write down the extra goodies the teacher drops in class.
Most of my classes met twice a week for 1.25 hours each session. That meant in the 16 week semester, professors had to cram a whole books-worth of info, 3 tests, 2 quizzes, discussion of 10 assignments, and leave time for discussion and holidays. If they’re lucky enough not to hit holidays, that leaves them exactly 40 hours to do all this in…. I do not envy teachers this. It’s a tall order, and you should be there every minute of every class to get as much out of that teacher as possible.
Which is partially my next point too. Professors typically aren’t doing their jobs because they get paid the big bucks. As far as I can tell, all professors I had fell into 3 groups with minimal overlap: they loved teaching, they loved the subject, or they were at the university for reasearch and teaching was an unfortunate side-requirement so they could get the funding they need. This last group is also typically the ones that have a slideshow they read directly from in class. Their lack of motivation for teaching often seeps into the students’ motivation to attend and do well and really learn the material. The ‘teachers that love the subject’ can sometimes overlap into the ‘teachers who love to teach’. These are what we call exceptionally awesome professors. The kind you recommend to everyone, no matter what courses they’re in charge of. Regardless, both of these categories produce people who are a joy to talk to after class. Since I got a computer degree, though, which category their in may decide how easy the conversation is. If they simply love the subject, often they get stuck in ‘nerd-speak’ and getting them to talk like a normal person is tough. Teachers who love to teach typically know their subject well enough and have figured out how to relate it to their audience. That focus on oration helps their students retain the material all the better.
Another, albeit smaller, reason to show up is because if you look on the syllabus, 9 times out of 10 attendance is actually graded. If not participation points are out there. This can be one of those ‘discretionary’ things that the teachers use to reward people that ask good questions. But hey, if even if you’re just wanting a good grade out of this class, that little 5% or 10% can certainly swing it.
My last and potentially largest reason for showing up to class was hinted at earlier in the post… YOU’RE PAYING FOR IT. Doing the math (which I do a lot, apparently), every class period cost more than $20 of either scholarship money or my pocket money. If you’re going to college simply to ge the piece of paper so society will think you are worth something, maybe this isn’t so important to you. But as frugal as I am, it ticked me off if the teacher goofed off for an entire lecture because that just increased the average cost of every other class period.
Stay in school. Don’t smoke crack. Get a job. Join the rest of us in continual misery. Welcome to the world.

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