Monday, April 13, 2009

Richardson's Rules of Order, Part IIIb: Appropriate Behavior in College Classrooms

Heather Cox Richardson offers up more advice to undergrad history majors. See previous posts below for more from her Richardson's Rules of Order.


Turn off your phone.

You may use a laptop in class, but other students beg you to sit in the last two rows if you expect to check your email, surf the web, or play games. If you sit in front of them, their eyes are drawn to your screen and they miss out on class. If you are taking notes, though, or occasionally looking up something class-related on-line, you may sit anywhere.

Never record or photograph a teacher or another student in class without express permission.

Assume that anything you put on the web is going to be found and read by everyone in your university and by future employers as well. Be careful what you make public. That photo of you and your roommate in Florida over spring break might seem hilarious now, but s/he may not be very happy about it when it kills his or her job offer from IBM. Similarly, on-line comments about other students, the class, or the professor will almost certainly become public knowledge, so make sure you’ve thought over whether or not you want your comments to be public before you decide to post anything on-line.

Appropriate Learning Behavior:

It is your job to learn the material covered in the course. Come to class and do the assignments on time. Few students actually do these two very simple things. Those who do will tell you that you virtually cannot fail a class in which you have accomplished these two basic requirements. To get the most out of a class, though, think about the material. Put effort into it. Let it give you new ideas and open up new fields.

Most college-level teachers want to teach, and are willing and sometimes even eager to help you. If you don’t understand something, ask. Go to office hours or see if the syllabus states how the professor prefers to be contacted. If it doesn’t say, drop the professor an email or a phone call asking what is the best way to reach him or her.

If you find a class particularly interesting, you can go to a professor’s office hours simply to say hello and to chat. You do not have to have a question or a problem. Most teachers will be very happy to see an interested student who doesn’t actually want anything from them.

Do not ask your professor to do your work. Do not ask for lecture notes because you missed class, do not ask for the answer to questions that are answered in the textbook, do not ask for information listed on the syllabus. Check class materials first before you bother the professor. Do ask for clarifications of material in lecture, or for suggestions for future reading.

Do ask teachers if you can hand in a draft of a paper, but don’t then simply make the changes the teacher suggests and expect that the paper will earn an “A”. It is your job to continue working on the paper, and to continue to improve it. Do not try to use your teacher as an editor.

If, at the beginning of a semester, you can foresee a scheduling problem later on, most teachers will allow you to arrange for an extension or an alternative assignment beforehand. Do not skip an exam or an assignment due date and tell the teacher later that you had something else to do. To excuse a missing assignment under such circumstances, the teacher will need an official note from a health-care provider, a dean, or another official source.

Do not have your parents call a professor to collect your assignments, or to complain about the class and/or grading. College teachers cannot discuss your performance with your parents.

If you make an appointment to meet a professor, keep it. If something unforeseen happens to make it impossible to keep the appointment, telephone or email immediately to cancel. Many professors (and I am one) have been stood up by students so many times that they will not come to campus for a single appointment.

See also, Richardson's Rules of Order, Part III: Appropriate Behavior in College Classrooms
Richardson's Rules of Order, Part II: Tips for Taking Notes in a College History Course and Richardson's Rules of Order, Part I: Why Study History?

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