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Grade Bullies

I’m coining a new phrase that I know teachers are going to love. The Grade Bully. It’s a new phenomenon most likely driven by a shift in parenting styles beginning in the 1990’s. If you think this corresponds with the emergence of the Millennial generation, you would be correct. I like to call this generation the ‘sticker generation’ where any effort, no matter how paltry, received a happy sticker. Some like to call it the ‘trophy generation’ whereby by small silvery statues which were distributed for doing nothing more than showing up. If you’re reading this and you’ve got a box of trophies in your childhood bedroom, then you may want to take this post to heart as it is most likely impacting your GPA negatively.

 

 

Grade bullies are students who communicate to teachers, in no uncertain terms, the grade they believe they deserve. These edicts usually include statements like:

 

“But this grade is not good enough for me.”

 

You’re supposed to be making me a better student.”

 

“My grade doesn’t reflect my efforts.”

 

“Your job is to inspire students.”

 

“I don’t like being compared to other students in the class.”

 

“I’m paying money for this course.”

 

If you’ve used any of the above statements, please read on.

 

For the record, I do compare your work to other students and not just the students in your class, but also all the students I’ve had over the years as well as national standards.

 

I don’t grade on effort. Effort is the sticker or the trophy. I grade on the quality of the finished product – i.e. goals scored, home runs hit and baskets made.

 

I can’t make you a better student, but I will present you with higher-level concepts that make your brain hurt. And worse – there may be more than one answer. You may not be used to this type of exercise, but it’s imperative that you learn how to think cognitively. Making mistakes is part of the process. That’s why everyone doesn’t get an A. Some students are better at it right out of the gate. Others have to work harder and some never get there.

 

Your classroom is not a movie set, and I’m not Cameron Diaz or Michelle Pfeiffer playing the role of a teacher. If I inspire you, great and if not, welcome to the real world.

 

Yes, you are paying for an academic course. You are not, however, paying for a specific grade. If you could, I’d be very rich.

 

I know all of this sounds horrible to your virgin ears, and it might paint me as an old-fashioned teacher with an axe to grind. Descriptions aside, I do have a goal and that is to prepare you for the work force where any of the above statements will earn you a pink slip.

 

Your future boss isn’t hiring you to make you a better person. They will hire you to produce for them, and your paycheck will not be delivered with a hug, kiss and endless praise. Your future boss is going to expect you to get the job done with little to no direction. Work is competitive and your boss is evaluating you versus your peers. Whoever is better gets promoted, and your boss is not obligated to explain why.

 

When employers call me to ask about hiring students the most common question is: “Can they work without supervision? Can they problem solve without direction? Can they take a project and run with it? I don’t want to babysit anyone.”

 

Normally I encourage students to respond to my posts, but I’d really love to hear from employers. What qualities do you look for when hiring recent grads?

 

 

When Am I Ever Going To Use This?

I know you’ve asked yourself – “When am I ever going to use this stuff I’m learning?”

I hear you and I get it. Sometimes school can feel like a pile of notes, but without enough hands on activities to mimic the workplace.  I decided to give my students’ penmanship a rest and instead I put them to work developing a commercial for my book series. The final version is here – but don’t miss the blooper reel!

A big thanks to Chris Saave who directed, filmed and edited.

http://www.chrissaave.com/

 

Blooper Reel Advertising Project

 

 

 

Is Skype Right for School?

Please Welcome Guest Blogger – Nancy Valencia

Is email the perfect tool for communicating with your professor? What if your course is online, but you feel the need to see the teacher in-person? I like to ask questions so that I understand assignments more in depth so I can better accomplish what I’m being asked. Sometimes email just doesn’t work.

That being said, I don’t think it is right for students to misuse email to make up excuses for a missed class or assignment. We live in a generation where we don’t get to know each other and develop a relationship of humans between student and professor. I think e-mail makes it easier to hide behind the computer and not have to go to campus or schedule meetings.

That’s why I’d like to suggest Skype as a communication tool for students and professors. It’s a dream come true for all the parents who work full time and can’t drive back and forth to campus. I, personally, would rather speak to a professor than to send e-mails back and forth. The truth is that I need to pay the bills and sometimes I have to put my job first. So, when I do need to speak to a teacher, it would be so much easier to do it in-person – through Skype.

I’d like to see a day, in the near future, where professors drop e-mails and use Skype instead. It would be like an online meeting which would be more humane than e-mails. Bottom line, our professors are not dumb, and they know we use email strategically. They know it’s easier for us to give them an excuse through email. Be upfront and simply say I procrastinated and never finished my work. Imagine all the excuses they have heard, over 100 times but with different tweaks here and there.

But if we really want to learn and accommodate our busy schedules, Skype might do the trick. Let’s say that we get snowed in for a week and can’t have class. Skype would be a perfect way to teach class instead of all this reading that drives us all mad. I suppose that is a whole other blog to write.

 

Please let me know your opinion!

 

Is Your Teacher Burnt Out?

If I gave you a five page speech on any topic, asked you to memorize it and then had you repeat the speech regularly for 5, 10 or maybe even 30 straight years, your head might explode into a fiery ball followed by a simmering sizzle. This phenomenon is called teacher burn out and it’s caused by repetition. Remember when you were a kid and you repeated the same word over and over until it sounded unrecognizable. You see where I’m going with this. Teachers are in the business of presenting similar material consistently each semester.

Can’t teachers just change-up the lectures and format? Yes and no. Teachers are required to teach the core material as outlined in the syllabus. There’s not a lot of wiggle room there. (I’d be hard-pressed to get through a semester without reviewing basic marketing concepts with my students.) Teachers can, however, add new and updated information to supplement the basics. But even then, your teacher might, after years, become robotic in their delivery.

Here’s my question. How can you, as a student, help prevent the inevitable teacher meltdown? It’s easy. If you want to snap your teacher back to the present, bring your own material to class. This can be in the form of questions, experiences, internships, and good old-fashioned curiosity.

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See me in this picture? I’m with two students – Dan Clark and Khalid Michel-Simms. They’ve launched their own line of clothing under the brand Dare to Be Different (D2BD) and their hands-on experience added a new dimension to my Marketing 101 class last semester. My standard lectures soon turned into interesting conversations about their business. The whole class benefited from their shared entrepreneurial spirit. And I got a much needed slap in the face and a renewed sense of purpose. I love the topics I teach and these students’ genuine energy reminded me of that fact.

A big thanks to the Dare to Be Different business partners –Dan and Khalid. Please visit their site and check out their stuff. http://www.d2bdglobal.bigcartel.com

 

5 Things You Should Never Say to Your Business Professor

Here are 5 things students say that make me cringe.

1. I’m terrible at math.

2. I don’t understand why I have to come to class on time.

3. I never read, watch or listen to the news.

4. Why would I want to dress up for my presentation?

5. Office Space? It’s a movie? Never heard of it.

I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but if you plan on pursuing a career in business, it will be hard to avoid math, getting to work on time, the news, a professional dress code and at least one reference to a red stapler.

Comments?

 

 

 

How to Talk To a Teacher – Bridging the Generational Gap

See this picture. It’s me and my college roommates – thirty years ago. When I look at this photo, I’m immediately transported back to the early 1980’s. For me, it feels normal. For you, it must seem antiquated. That age difference makes it hard for us to connect.

And yet, thirty years ago, no one was connected. There was nothing to connect to. I’d never seen a cell phone nor used a computer. My papers were typed on an electric typewriter. My housemates and I had one phone, attached to the kitchen wall with a cord that stretched three feet to the refrigerator. No one I knew had an answering machine. If a guy you liked said he’d call, you sat by the phone and waited. If you went to a college party, you had no idea who was there until you arrived and no evidence of the night’s shenanigans were captured electronically. This photo was as bad as it got. Personal information remained personal and ‘sharing’ was a behavior learned by nursery school kids. If a better party was happening somewhere else on campus, you’d never know, so you didn’t care. The party was wherever you were at – as this picture proves.

Pants sat above your hips (I submit my stonewashed jeans as evidence), undergarments remained hidden, sneakers had not become collectibles, flip flops were strictly a beach item, tattoos were unthinkable unless you’d been to prison, music was played on a stereo system with giant speakers. Check out the size of the black box behind my head. If someone told me they had earbuds in 1980, I would have suggested they see an ENT.

Rap music hadn’t gone mainstream. The term ‘urban lifestyle’ hadn’t been invented. Hair was big, shoulder pads were enormous and MTV played the same three music videos.

I’d never heard the letters ATM until I got my first real job after college. If I wanted money, I had to wait on a physical line to cash a check. No one lived at home after college and parents were not considered your friends. First week freshman year, you waited by the payphone to speak to your parents. If your family’s phone was busy, you waited until the next week.

If I wanted to speak to a teacher, I had to show up in person and hope the line outside their door wasn’t too long. Teachers couldn’t fire off emails to a class or post announcements on an e-board. My questions were prepared ahead of time so I could get the most out of my five minutes of face-to-face time. If I had to leave a teacher a note, I proofread it and included a formal salutation and close. I never called a teacher on the phone, and obviously, I never sent a teacher an emoji.

In class, students listened carefully. PowerPoint slides were not made available before or after class – or ever. There was no such thing as electronic slides. Teachers talked and students wrote notes. Lots of notes. With little else but our notes to go on, textbooks were very important. We bought them, we read them, we carried them to the library to study, we high-lighted the important parts in neon green and then we prayed the bookstore would buy them back after a  semester of serious abuse. I hope you didn’t miss the guy sitting on the couch in the back of this picture. He brought his textbook to a party!

So – is it hard to talk to your teachers? Of course it is. Our college experiences are formed by our generational differences. This makes our interactions difficult. Lots of times, I just don’t get what students are trying to tell me because their approach is based on their fast-moving electronic world. In my college world, circa 1983-1987, parental contact and support was limited, information was hard to come by (no google), distractions were minimal (no cell phones or YouTube), and class time had value simply because we had little else available to earn a good grade.

Here’s my advice. If you need help from a teacher, show up to their office. Email conversations with a teacher are often doomed for failure. Speak slowly. Introduce yourself. Be prepared and thank them when you’re done. Resist the urge to check your phone. If you want to take notes on your computer, have it booted up before you walk into the office. Don’t talk about your family. In fact, don’t say anything personal. If your teacher is distracted by their own cellphone or email, then they’re probably not much older than you. In which case, you’ll get along just fine!

 

 

Should Attendance Count?

Attendance is a tough topic for me to discuss because I’m not sure I agree with the current educational theories related to showing up for class. Logically, attending class should result in better grades because if the teacher is teaching and you’re listening, then learning should occur. Hopefully, the time spent at the desk will rub off and result in correct answers on tests. Conversely, the less time spent in class might result in fewer correct answers. For that reason alone, students should be motivated to attend class. I’m on board with this type of thinking.

My real question has to do with earning additional points for attending. Should attendance, otherwise known as the act of being present, count as points towards your grade? Check your syllabus. Are you earning points for attendance? Or rather, are you losing points for not attending? What if you got a 100 on a test and then lost points for not attending? Would you be angry?

Before you answer, remember that attendance is not participation. Attendance is nothing more than arriving and leaving at a prescribed time. What you do for those minutes in between, is up to the student. You might be the type of student who attends and pays attention. But what about that kid next to you? He’s sleeping and earning an equal amount of points. It’s like those old diet commercials that tried to convince people they could lose weight while they slept.

I don’t particularly like giving or subtracting points for attendance but teachers seem to feel that those extra brownie points act as a motivator – they get students who wouldn’t ordinarily show up to attend, regardless of their level of consciousness.

So – I pose the question to students. Points or no points. Let me know.

 

 

My Five Favorite Words

 

If you really want your professor to like you, try these five words.

 

“What else do you teach?

 

Like a fine bottle of wine, this question needs time to age. If you throw it in too early, it won’t ring true. I recommend saving it up until the end of the semester. Why? Because it implies a tangible action that benefits the professor. Registration is open and you’re about to pick classes. Teachers’ need to fill their classes, especially electives. Your question is exactly what they want to hear.

 

Consider this –compliments are perishable. They’re gone the minute you walk out of the classroom. Asking a teacher what else they teach is a compliment with a complimentary commitment. It’s like down payment and timed correctly, it will leave your professor with a positive feeling about you.

 

And that can’t hurt during final exams. So mark your calendar now.

Late For Your College Class…..Again?

I’d like to welcome an anonymous contributor on a topic that drives me nuts too – The Late Student 

 

clock

Lateness is a quality that many people possess. I look at it as a burden.  It baffles my mind that people can run through life on their own clock, with total disregard of obligations and responsibilities to others.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in my college classes. This semester especially, I have noticed just how many students are not bothered by their own repeated lateness.  I’m amazed to see students routinely walk in 25 minutes after the class has started, almost never apologetic, and then act as if someone is forcing them to be in a class they paid for. It’s like buying a sandwich, eating a third and then throwing the rest out. I thought the goal of college was to graduate. I don’t see how repeated lateness can improve your grades?

One teacher in particular has created a lateness policy, which at first I was taken aback by, but now I completely understand and respect it.  The class starts promptly on time, after which the door is closed. After 15 minutes, the teacher opens the door and allows the late students to come in, and then repeats this process again 15 minutes later.  In the beginning of the semester I expected maybe a couple of students to be those dreaded ones who are staring through the window of the closed door with desperation and frustration.  But I was sadly mistaken, as there are often over five people each time that door is opened.

The purpose for this policy is so that these late students will not enter the classroom late, one by one, and disrupt the students who had the common sense to arrive on time.  By entering as a group, we only have to suffer through two disruptions as opposed to 10.  It’s comical to me because this policy was explained in detail on the first day of class, and still the same people seem to arrive on their own clock.

I have simply come to believe that if you are going to repeatedly be late to class, then don’t expect the teacher to have any sympathy for you, and please don’t expect that A.

Rate Your Professor — On the First Day

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One week down, fourteen to go. I don’t want to give you the idea that I’m counting the days, but I’m always relieved at the end of the first week. No matter how many times I’ve had to introduce myself to a class, I always worry about that first impression. Did I come across too strong, too weak or just plain boring?

 

Here are some of my choice moments from Spring 2015’s first week.

 

About twenty minutes into a morning class, a student stood up and announced, “This isn’t an Italian class, is it?”  No — but that would be kind of fun. Maybe I could throw in a few Italian words just to spice up the class. Buon lavoro! (I think that means good work.)

 

Unfortunately, I don’t speak Italian. Neither did a second student who was hot on the heels of the first student. “I’m in the wrong class, too,” she admitted as she headed for the door. “But this class seems pretty good and I think I’ll try to add it.”  I took that as a compliment, but my glow quickly faded.

 

A third student packed up his books and walked out. No good-byes, just a door in my face. Ouch, I thought, and then I realized I’d never please everyone with my first day routine. In fact, I’ve decided that from now on I’m just going to be me.  And, I plan on being ‘just me’ for the next fourteen weeks – not that I’m counting.

 

Good luck this semester!

 

Comments on your first week of school are welcome here!