Through a series of fortuitous events, I am once again teaching at The University of Regina. But this time for only the fall term (no more winters in Saskatchewan for me!). After my experiences last year (and as I rethink my experiences over the past 74 years of teaching), I have decided, once again, to revise my open letter to students.
To my students:
- University is different from high school: you have to work.... really hard if you want to learn much. You have to read, you have to study, you have to think. If you don't do these things, you will likely fail or receive a low mark. I'm appalled by how little work students seem to think they should do in university.
- Reading all the material and going to class does not guarantee you an A or even a B unless you are considerably above average in ability. You actually have to study too. I expect you to do about two hours of work out of class for every hour in class.
- If you miss class, please do not ask me if anything important happened. I wouldn't give the lecture if I didn't think it was important. What do you expect me to answer?
“Yes, actually, on the one day you missed I decided to give a pop quiz that counts for 20% of your course mark. Then we discussed the answers to the upcoming final exam, and then I gave everybody real, not invisible, chocolate chip cookies. Too bad you missed it.”
- In my 74 years as a prof, I've probably heard most excuses: Deaths in the family, apartment fires, tears on command, cars breaking down, feigning symptoms of depression, computer crash, you name it: I either knew someone who used it or have had to deal with it. I have a pretty good feeling for when you are trying to bull$hit me, so don’t try. And while I am very sympathetic if your excuse is legitimate, I am ruthless if you lie to me. (For example, see this).
- Computer crashes are your responsibility, not mine. Begin your online quizzes long before they are due. For projects or term papers, back up your work: use Dropbox, Google Docs, a USB stick or something.
- If you plagiarize work for my course, I will report you, and I will fail you in the course, and I may try to get you expelled from the university (as I did several years ago with one student whose offence was repeated and flagrant). Don't plagiarize. I will catch you even if TurnItIn.com doesn't.
- Cell phones are disruptive. Please turn them off before you come to class. If yours rings in class, you will have to leave. In fact, because of past disruptions from students playing games or text messaging, if your cell phone is on your desk or in your lap, you will have to leave class, regardless of whether you are actually using it.
- The same thing applies to laptop computers or iTouch web-surfers and the like. Don't bother bringing your laptop to class because I will just ask you to close it and put it away. If you really would rather spend your class time surfing the internet, just change majors to hydraulic socionomology or transfer to York (or Calgary).
- And while we're on "don'ts", please do not eat in class. Doing so is very distracting to the students around you.
- During the lectures and discussions, I may seem fun and amusing, but that does not mean my tests are easy. My exams can be hard.
- My classes are not like Canadian Parliament --- heckling is not permitted.
- Please do not send me nasty e-mails about an exam or mark when you are fired-up and angry or in a drunken stupor at 4am. Believe me, you will regret it the next day.
- I'm getting old and forgetful. Please forgive me if I tell the same story more than once.
- Incompletes are for students who, for legitimate, documented reasons, could not finish the class. If you don't like your grade, you may not take an incomplete. And, no, I do not give "makeup" exams so students can try to raise their marks.
- If you take the midterms and do badly, and then don't drop the class, and then come back 3 months later and try to act as if you were never in my class and you want me to sign a form, I won't. I'm a pushover for many things, but that does not include unwillingness to accept responsibility for your own actions or inactions.
- If you are failing this course, do not make sly little suggestions about what you might do to earn a passing grade. You are failing the course — why should I think your performance would be better in any other areas? Besides, I'm too old to care.
- If I see you out on the town or at the sports bar, and you want to buy me a drink, you cannot currently be in my classes or ever take any of my classes again. Then probably you can buy me a drink.
- If you see me out on the town or in a mall or whatever, and you're too shy to come over and say "Hello", we'll develop an official course gesture that will stand for, "Hi. I'm in your class."
- When you tell me, “I’m getting kicked out of school because of the grade I got in your class,” this might make me feel bad, but it certainly makes me question whether this is the first/only bad grade you have ever received.
- If you come to see me because you are worried about your grade, and you use all the study suggestions that I might provide, and I really honestly believe that you are trying hard but you are still getting a bad grade, I will wish I had the courage and integrity to tell you that not everyone is meant for university, and in my curmudgeonly dotage, I just might!
- If you ask a stupid question in class, I will try not to laugh at your question. I apologize if I do. After all, I shudder whenever I think of all the stupid questions I have asked (but which helped me learn).
- In fact, please ask all the questions you want in class. I learn from my mistakes, and I suspect that most other folks do, too, so ask away. If I see anyone so much as roll an eye, I will pull them aside after class and tell them their behaviour is inappropriate. If it is a very large class, though, and your questions seem to be dominating the class discussion, I may have to ask you to save some for after class.
- And, please, if you liked my class, if you feel that it changed the way you think, if you learned a lot, if you were challenged, please tell me. Because people in our economy face limited resources and time, seeing the lights go on for you is what keeps me going. I love teaching, and I am clearly not in it for the money. Actually, this last item goes for all your professors.