I am also aware that this fall I will be dealing with a new batch of new students.
Here are some thoughts, and I know they seem pretty basic, on professor management tools most students have to learn.
In no particular order, meaning I have mixed up big and little ideas:
- Read the syllabus. This will tell you when the assignments are due and when the exams are written. It should also tell you what the expectations for each are. If it doesn't make sense go and talk to the prof after class. (Students have caught typos in my course outlines and it has been helpful to know that).
- Read the syllabus. Most of the questions I am asked can be answered if the student read the syllabus.
- If you are going to submit an assignment electronically (more and more courses, like mine, have you upload assignments to a course website) save your document as a .doc or, if the prof asks for it, a .pdf . If in doubt submit .docs, they are easier to mark with track changes. If you are a Mac person and believe the whole world should use Macs still have Office installed so you can save .docs. It is the industry standard. A prof marking a mountain of assignments doesn't like to have to email a student asking for a resubmit when they can't open the document. (I work on a Mac but still run into this).
- Always put your name and student number as the file name in assignments you hand in. (I get many sent in as "Final assignment" then I have to resave after I have added the name etc.)
- If you have any questions at all, about an assignment, what any course expectations are etc., go ask the prof directly. Do not ask other students. Repeat do not ask other students. If I had a dollar for every time 15 students misinterpreted something because one student had it wrong and that was the student every one else asked, I would be golfing in Florida right now.
- Profs have office hours. This is time they sit and wait in their offices for customers with questions. If you are worried about a course or an assignment go early and go often. Do not be the kid who only shows up the week before the end of term and says "I'm going to fail this course what can I do?"
- If you are unsure about what a prof wants in a paper or an assignment see above but even better give it back to them in your own words to see if there is a match, as in "OK so you want me to do some research on this topic and make an argument on why this theory is useful using 5-10 scholarly sources, 10 pages double-spaced 12 pt, font."
- If you get a bad mark in an assignment never, ever whine about it or tell the prof you feel bad. To be honest this is about learning and work not about feelings. Make an appointment and go in and say "I didn't get the mark I expected for this assignment so what can I do next time so I get a better mark?" Keep your eyes on what you can do instead and on making this assignment a learning experience. This stuff is music to a prof's ears and they will be more than glad to help you regroup and raise your mark next time.
- If you are really stressed or sick and think you are not going to make the deadline go and talk to the prof at least 48 hours before this is due and ask for an extension. Be prepared to supply a doctor's note.
- Never plagiarize, whatever your friends tell you. You can get a zero in the assignment, the course, or even be asked to leave the program. You never know what prof is going to come down hardest on this (I do) and once that process starts there is no going back.
- If you are in your first year and managed your time horribly and are freaking out go and see your prof and be honest about that (they are still not obliged to, and most won't, give you an extension but honesty is always your best bet).
- Never go with a problem without a solution. "I am not going to get this to you Friday at 6:00, I have been sick, can I have an extension until Monday at 9:00?"
- Do not under any circumstances send an email, or go see a prof with a fake excuse. Profs have fake excuse radar like you wouldn't believe.
- Do not say your grandmother is sick. I once had six grandmothers go down the week before exams. Miraculously they all recovered.
- Do not write emails that say "I was on a family trip over the weekend and we didn't have internet access so I couldn't hand in my assignment."
- Do not write "my computer crashed and I lost all my files including this assignment and I have had to start all over again." I this has never happened to me so it makes no sense it happens to certain students every term. Back up if you have to and be prepared to have no one believe you if this does happen.
- Do not write that your computer fell out of the window.
- Do not write that your room mate took your laptop to class by mistake.
- Do not write that your boyfriend ran over your laptop in his car by mistake.
- Do not put a smiley face at the end of an email asking for an extension.
- Do not put a picture of a sweet kitten at the end of an email asking for extension because someone has said I like animals.
- No smiley faces and no kittens.
- I mean that.