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My Advice to Students

posted: 12.10.13 by Traci Gardner

With the semester nearly over here at Virginia Tech, I keep thinking about what will happen when the first-year writing students I am teaching move on to the second semester of the course and a new teacher. I worry about both whether they are prepared and how I can make that transition easier for them.

I know that I am not the strictest teacher. I let things slide that many teachers wouldn’t. For instance, as long as I can open a file, I accept and grade it, even if it isn’t in the format that I asked for. I admit that it annoys me. I know that some teachers would return the work, but I save it as the format I need and don’t let it affect the grade. My underlying question now is how to provide students with some end-of-the-term advice that will help them navigate the university next semester, when the rules are going to change.

I’ve decided to create a short list of tips, pulling from things I’ve noticed during the term. The list will be part of their final exam, so I know they will read and consider it. I’ll give students my list as an example of advice to students, and I’ll ask them to write their own advice to students who take my course in the future.

Here’s the list I’m sharing:

  1. Put your name on your work. Your teacher can probably figure out who turned in a document, but it’s much easier to make sure you get credit by putting your name at the top of any essay you turn in.

  2. Use the format your teacher asks for if you’re sending electronic work. Your teacher may not have the software to open your file otherwise. Even if she has to convert the file, the format and layout may no longer appear as you want them to.

  3. If you can’t turn something in using the system your teacher wants, don’t just email the teacher. Email the teacher AND attach the work. That way, your teacher knows that you completed the work on time.

  4. Listen to and follow the instructions for your assignments. If the teacher says to underline your thesis or include a bibliography, be sure that you do.

  5. Always check the syllabus for basic questions before you ask the teacher. You’re likely to find things like the late policy, the grade scale, and attendance policies there.

  6. If you’re not sure about something, ask. Don’t assume that your teacher next term will do things the same way I have.

  7. Definitely be sure that you understand the teacher’s policy on using your laptop, tablet, or cell phone in class. The details may be on the syllabus. If they are not, ask. Don’t assume that the teacher won’t mind. If you do have to ask, provide some context. For instance, you might ask if it’s okay to use your laptop to take notes, rather than just asking if you can use your laptop.

  8. Realize that the teacher can see you, and don’t make a bad impression. I knew when you were sleeping, doodling, fooling around on Facebook, or generally not doing the work I asked you to. There’s a meme teachers share with one another:

  9. Don’t say things like “Does this matter for the assignment?” or “Did we do anything important in class?” Check out this advice on things to say and things not to say, and follow it.

  10. Remember that the Writing Center can help you next term too. Your teacher may not talk about it, but it is a resource that is available for you during your entire time here at Virginia Tech.

I fear I will come across like a parent, giving students warnings and advice before I send them off into the world, but I do want them to make a good impression next term and I want them to do well in their future courses at the university. If they snicker at me, I’m okay with that. They may laugh, but they’re bound to be better prepared for the spring term.

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