"College is like a fountain of knowledge — and the students are there to drink” — anonymousBack in college after fifty years - what an eye opener! Two months ago, on April 10 to be exact, I shared with you my first impressions about returning to college where I was taking ten credits of Spanish and piano. Why go? I did this because I'd procrastinated in renewing my teaching credential and needed fifteen credits by early next year. I decided to bite the bullet and get them out of the way as quickly as possible - thus I became an Edmonds Community College daytime student.
Much has changed since 1959, especially regarding technology, but one thing remains constant: Student behavior and study habits. As it was then, it is now. Grade books will tells us that a small percentage of students will get A, more will get B, most will get C, and going down the curve, fewer will get D or F.
I think I am heading for an "A " in Spanish. My classmate, Cathleen, is doing likewise. We had some thoughts as to why:
- The Big One: If the teacher tells you to do something a certain way, DO IT!!! It matters not if you think you have a better or easier way. If he or she gives you a sample or model to follow, do so.
- Take complete notes. BE SURE YOU CAN READ YOUR OWN HANDWRITING. If necessary, bring a tape recorder and tape the lecture. This is particularly helpful if you can't write as fast as the instructor speaks.
- Participate in the classroom by raising your hand and contributing. It shows you are listening.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions. This also shows you are listening.
- Attend on a regular basis. If you must be absent, inform the teacher ahead of time verbally or by e-mail and find someone in the class to take notes for you.
- Study as you go. Forget cramming. It is neither useful nor helpful in the long term. We had so much thrown at us in Spanish that, by necessity I had to cram. I have to go back and re-learn a lot if I want Spanish to be useful to me.
- If the instructor offers you optional extra credit opportunities to add to your grade, do not "blow them off" but take advantage of this gift. In our case we would get 15 points for engaging in three cultural opportunities followed by brief written reports: (a) Eating in a bona fide Mexican, Central American, Caribbean or Spanish restaurant, (b) watching a Spanish speaking movie (with English subtitles), and (c) attending one multicultural event. (Our family dined at the Buenos Aires restaurant in downtown Seattle. I attended the Cinco De Mayo celebration on campus. I saw the Spanish movie Volver with Penelope Cruz, also on campus, in the Black Box Theater.) Not only did I get 15 points towards my grade, I learned a lot and had a great time doing it. I would have done none of those things without the strong suggestion of the teacher. I might add here, though, that his strong suggestion made "optional" feel like "mandatory" .
- Do NOT cheat. If the teacher doesn't notice it, you can be sure your classmates will. Someone is sure to "narc" on you to your extreme detriment.
- DO NOT FALL ASLEEP IN CLASS. If a father of three, who has worked a graveyard shift can come to class, participate, take notes, and look alive, then certainly a younger student whose only excuse is too much partying, TV or gaming can do the same.
- Study a little every day, do all work, hand it in on time, and be accountable. You will get your A.
Remember also that how you do in each class has a cumulative effect on your transcript, and how easy or difficult it will be to transfer to a school with stringent entry requirements. A couple of students in my class want to go to the UW nursing school. Grades matter and you won't get in without good ones.
Don't just take up space because you can't think of anything else to do. It's not really fair to those who want entry, but can't get in because classes are full. That happened in our class. Several were on the waiting list, but the deadline passed and by then it was too late. In the meantime, several students dropped out because it got too hard. Too bad they weren't motivated to keep going, and didn't have the study habits to make it happen.
Cathleen and I spent a few minutes thinking about our mutual work ethic and why getting an "A" in class was important to us. It undoubtedly has to do with the way we were raised and the experiences we had that drive our desire to do well. But we both agreed on this: Anyone can do well in class if they follow a few simple guidelines. Try it. You might like the results.