How To Do Well In My Class

Sometimes students seem to be confused about how to do well in school. I can’t speak for all professors at our university, but it’s actually relatively  easy to earn a good grade (like, a B+) in my class. It’s so easy because many of the other students with whom you are competing aren’t well-organized, responsible, or willing to participate or make a strong effort.

Don’t be like them! Here’s how to do well in my class:

  • Don’t plagiarize. Ever. If you plagiarize and don’t get F, I’m already being unreasonably generous toward you. If you don’t know what plagiarize means, read this. (Korean and English versions available.)
  • Come to class regularly. Not for attendance, but because class is where you learn the things you need to learn to pass the class.
  • Participate in class regularly and actively. When I ask a question, offer an answer. When I ask who wants to read a text aloud in class, volunteer. When I ask you to find a partner, do it quickly: don’t stand up and look around like I’ve asked you to calculate E=mc²! (Standing around as if you’re confused is actually a way of resisting doing the classwork. You can find a partner easily, but if you stand around acting like it’s hard, you waste classtime and avoid working. It’s as simple as that!) The more you try to contribute to the class, the higher your participation grade will be. Nobody likes someone who is on their team at work and contributes something. Start contributing now.
  • When I ask you to try some task with your partner or group, do it and keep doing it till I ask the class to stop. (If you complete the task, try a similar task: invent your own similar task and try it with your parter or group. That’s how people learn things.) People who say, “Finished!” and stop working when others are working almost always get worse grades than the people who keep working… not because they said finished, but because they’re not interested in developing the skills they need to do well on the homework and exams in the class.
  • Be engaged. Being bored in class is a choice. Being bored isn’t necessary: it’s never necessary. If you have perfect English, you still don’t write or speak or debate perfectly, trust me. There’s always something more to learn, and I will help you if you make an effort to be engaged. Think of it as investing your energy in finding some use in a course you don’t really want or need, but are required to take.
  • Hand in all your homework on time. Late homework costs marks. Skipped homework costs even more marks, and signals that you don’t really care about your learning (or your grades). This is especially true in writing classes, where students have a writing practice blog. Students constantly fail to write the required number of posts, and then end up wondering why they didn’t get an A+. They didn’t do their homework. It’s simple.
  • Do as good a job as you can on your homework. Homework is almost never perfect, and of course it doesn’t need to be perfect. However, following instructions, proofreading your work, and correctly formatting it usually help you get a decent mark on it, especially when I’m mainly looking for effort or ideas or specific writing skills (ie. in most of the courses I teach now).
  • Complete all “online feedback” tasks assigned to the class. I will ask some classes to self-evaluate, or to evaluate their peers, regularly. Those are easy marks: complete the evaluations in good faith (with more than one-word comments), and you will usually get full marks.
  • Demonstrate good attitude in class. If you waste our time ranting about how you hate Japan, or disrupt class by chatting loudly to your neighbor, it’ll hurt your participation mark.
  • Treat me with respect, as you would your Korean professors. Occasionally, a student will be openly disrespectful of me, and it does lower their class participation grade. Smoking in my classroom (yes, it has happened), saying rude things about me in Korean right in front of me (yes, I can understand a lot of what you’re saying), or walking in and out of class regularly as if it were a fast food restaurant: allof these behaviors are disrespectful and will probably hurt your participation mark. And all the Koreans I know say you’d never try that kind of behavior with a Korean prof, so don’t try act like it’s normal to do these things in class.
  • If you don’t understand something, ask questions. I can’t help you understand better if you don’t ask. The best is asking in class. But you can ask me alone, after class or in my office, if you like, or even by email.
  • Take responsibility for your learning. Don’t miss class and then email me asking what you missed, and can I explain the homework? I can’t summarize a two-hour class in an email, and it’s not my job to do so. Ask a classmate who attended to explain what you missed.  Check the class website or Blackboard announcements. Don’t say it’s not your fault if you missed a homework assignment. Who else’s fault could it be? It’s certainly not my fault. It’s definitely not other students’ fault. It’s your job to stay up to date on assignments… especially if I’ve posted an announcement about it. (And I usually do.)
  • Show up for the exams. Both exams. If you don’t, and don’t have a very good (and documented) reason, you will get F. There’s nothing I can do about that. Sleeping through the exam, or being mixed up about the exam date (after the date and time have been announced in class more than once, as well as posted in an online announcement), are not very good reasons for missing the exam. (They are sad and pathetic reasons.) Some examples of “very good” and documentable reasons for missing an exam:
    • You were saving the city from terrorists.
    • You got hit by a car in the street and ended up in the hospital.
    • You got diagnosed with cancer the day before the exam and were still in shock.
    • Someone in your immediate family died.
  • Make an effort. This is especially a problem with students who have good English, and feel they don’t need to work hard to do well, or who feel bored in class. Make an effort anyway. I know it’s unfair that you need to take a class too low level for you. But I can’t fix that. All you can do is try learn something along the way. (And I guarantee I’ll try help you learn what you need to learn… if you make an effort.)
  • Don’t register for class and not show up. I’m happy for you if you found a job, but I’m not going to give you credit for a class you didn’t take. Finishing university means sacrifice. Every student sacrifices time, money, and energy to finish university, when they could be doing something else, like working. You are not magically entitled to skip the sacrifice just because someone hired you. If you have a job and cannot attend school full time, don’t register for a full load of classes. If your boss is so eager to hire you before you graduate, they should be patient while you finish your classes. Any boss who hires people who have not graduated, and expects them to graduate without ever attending class, is simply an idiot. I am not going to let your idiot boss ruin my class, or the university. It’s that simple. You may get lucky and find another professor who is willing to make an arrangement with you, but I am not willing to help you sabotage your own education for the sake of a job you probably won’t be working five years from now. But if that’s your priority, good luck to you.
  • Don’t obsess about your grade. Grades are a distraction from learning, in reality. If all you’re thinking about is the grade, you probably won’t learn much… and you’ll get a bad grade. If you forget about grades and become passionate about learning the content or skills taught in the class, then you’ll get so good a those skills or master that knowledge and probably get a good grade anyway.

It’s that easy. The fact that so many students don’t get a B+ is, to be honest, something you should use to your advantage. Be more organized, sensible, and responsible than the average student, and you will do well in my class. It’s as simple as that!

Good luck!