#3. BE OPEN
Deep fried grasshoppers, stewed chicken feet, durian fruit
No, were not serving up exotic Asian foods in my classroom, but if you cant even consider the possibility that another culture would find these foods the equivalent of a philly cheese steak, or a deep dish pizza, then already youve closed off a part of your mind.
To be open, is to be tolerant of diversity, free from bigotry and judgment, and eager to be exposed to new truths. When you come into the classroom, are you ready to let go of limits? Willing to push open the gates of possibility? Capable of waiting before forming an opinion?
New, foreign, different, unusual does not equal bad. New ideas may make you uncomfortable and it may take some degree of courage for you to accept or even consider them, but the alternative is mental stagnation. A closed mind is incapable of creativity. An open mind actively seeks understanding, and strives for better, more creative solutions.
If you come to my class closed, I will accept you for who you are, but I will be a little sad for you too: a limited life affects me that way.
Photo Credit © Alisher Duasbaew
#4 BE PREPARED
Yes, I realize it is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America– I give full attribution, but the motto applies just as well in the classroom as it does in life– be prepared to do your best.
Got a syllabus? Read it. Know what is expected of you. Got a textbook? Read what’s assigned, ahead of time so you’re prepared to ask questions for clarification. How do you know what you don’t know unless you know what you do? Got an assignment due? Be ready to hand it in on time. Buy a calendar, or use one of the numerous free ones on the internet. Start early so you have time to get help if you need it.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Be assured, I am prepared for you, every day and it’s a lot of work for me too. Keep in mind the words of James Baker, “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Or if you prefer, Vince Lombardi, “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
Photo credit © Noel Guerrero
Tomorrow…#3 BE OPEN
This week is Midterm and Spring Break rolled into one. Eight more weeks left and an excellent opportunity to recharge and move forward with renewed enthusiasm. So when I had a student come to me the Friday before break and ask, “What do I need to do to pass your class? Do you like chocolate?” (Go ahead, you can cringe and laugh at the same time, I know I did), I had a little time on my hands to address the topic of using bribery in college to gain successful outcomes.
For the student mentioned above, it’s too late. Twenty assignments missed, one failed exam and one missed exam, does not make for a passing grade no matter how much chocolate the student is prepared to throw my way. Plus, I had tried and failed to roundup some work from this student several weeks ago on more than one occasion.
So what does make a successful semester, a successful student, or as this student implied, how do you successfully suck up to your professor?
In characteristic David Letterman style, I developed my top ten list, but I am in editing mode these days and I whittled it down to five.
#5. BE PRESENT (not to be confused with giving presents)
This applies not only to attendance, although there is a lot to be said for showing up to class, to succeed you must do more. You must be in the moment, not ruminating about tomorrow’s test in another class, the pile of laundry you left behind or whether or not you fed the cat (note: they can go a couple days, but will be angry, very angry). To be truly present means to leave everything else at the classroom door. I promise you, I am thinking of nothing else but the class at hand when I’m in the classroom, and you should too.
Tomorrow…#4 BE PREPARED
Photo credit © Slallison