The How To Be A Better Student Rule Book

I am pretty active on Twitter. I follow lots of educators (because I am one, among other things), and without fail, I see all sorts of links to blogs and articles and YouTube videos about how to be a better teacher. I have never seen one that tells students how to be, well, better students. So to address this significant gap in the market, I thought I would put this little Rule Book together. It’s a little bit of a tongue in cheek rant, but anyone in education should recognise certain student traits!

Rule #1

Just because you pay for a course does not mean you are entitled to pass it. You actually have to work and you actually have to do well. There seems to be a common misconception among students that they can skip the process of learning, and can bully and intimidate educators into giving them a pass in a subject (hint: appearing in a muscle t-shirt in freezing weather trying to convince me – in no uncertain terms – to change the grade on your assignment will not work). I tell you this: if you try this, all it will do is make me dig my heels in and find any reason reason I can NOT to pass you.

Rule #2

Just because you invested a lot of time on an assignment does not mean you are entitled to a Distinction. Unfortunately, spending a lot of time on something does not mean that it’s actually good. You can spend a lot of time on something and it will still be crap. And Rule #1 also applies here.

Rule #3

A Distinction at Diploma level is equal to Credit at Advanced Diploma level. It is a simple mathematical rule that students seem to forget. And that’s because working at Advanced Diploma level is harder. If the work is harder, and the expectations are higher, it is logical to assume it is harder to earn a Distinction (also see Rules #1 and #2).

Rule #4

This is aligned to Rule #3. To get a Distinction at Advanced Diploma level in my class, you’d want to be showing me something pretty bloody special. Run-of-the-mill blah blah stuff that parrots theory, or directs me to to an endless array of appendices that are numbered incorrectly is not special. Big picture thinking that is creative and brave and well-researched but fresh is what floats my boat.

Rule #5

Don’t bite the hand that gives you feedback. Suck it up, take it on board and be glad someone cares enough about you and your work to give it. Plenty of educators don’t. And for God’s sake, don’t take it personally. Feedback is designed to show you where you can improve. If you don’t want to improve, you shouldn’t be in a learning environment.

Rule #6

Whinging and complaining won’t change your grade, unless, of course my maths is wrong (which it sometimes is). Usually, the only way to change a grade is to work hard. Then harder. And it might take a while, because usually students have developed certain habits that have to be undone. But you can be rebuilt. If you want to, that is.

Rule #7

If you aren’t happy with a result, feedback or grade, don’t go behind the lecturer’s back, or over his or her head to get it changed. All that does is just annoy us. It also tells us a lot about your character – or lack thereof – and that instead of facing up to your result and dealing with it, you would resort to underhanded tactics. You got the grade for a reason, and this usually tied to one of the previous rules. And lecturers and teachers do talk, you know! There are no secrets in education!

Rule #8

Read the specifications and/or marking criteria of an assignment. If you only cover half of what you need to, you will only get half the marks, maximum. As an educator, I make it very clear what I want to see in an assignment, including the way it is set out. I call it standards. If you choose to ignore my requirements, then you can expect a less than positive response reflected in your marks. And I always want Harvard referencing and academic journal articles, unless I specify otherwise. Oh, and the internet is not counted as an academic source.

Rule #9

Don’t expect that just showing up to class is enough to get you through. You actually need to do out-of-hours work. This work is usually called research for assignment, planning and writing assignments and studying for exams. And if you miss classes, don’t expect the lecturer to catch you up. That is your responsibility. He or she has already run that class and is thinking about the next one. And if you decide to come to class, but talk or SMS or Facebook or surf the net during it, you will not learn anything. Despite the rhetoric, you cannot multi-task. Sorry if you bought into that one.

Rule #10

If you choose to be an external student, you make a trade-off. That trade-off is no – or limited – class interaction. You miss out on the stories and examples that accompany the slides, and any ad hoc assignment hints and tips that may be discussed. In my class, you miss out on seeing what Distinction papers look like, because I get students to share their work when assignments are returned. But remember, being an external student is your choice. So for God’s sake, don’t claim you are disadvantaged.

Bonus Rule #1

Terms and conditions are specified clearly at the beginning of all courses. It annoys educators no end if you want to change these T&Cs to suit your own agenda, and then claim that the lecturer is being unfair, or that you are being victimised because he or she will not change or amend these T&Cs to meet your requirements. Despite what your parents have told you, you aren’t special. You don’t get special treatment.

Bonus Rule #2

You need to get used to the word No. Your parents might never have used it, but your boss sure will. And what worked to turn a No into a Yes with your parents won’t work in my classroom. You can try to bully, intimidate, plead, cajole, beg, manipulate etc. me as much as you like, but all this does is make me less inclined to budge (see Rule #1). You are much more likely to get a Yes from me if you are a nice person (see rules above for how to achieve this). And I am more than happy for you to fake it. Who knows? Faking niceness might actually become a habit that turns into sincerity!

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0 thoughts on “The How To Be A Better Student Rule Book

  1. Cool!

    I once had a student who can’t believe she failed, and still had the guts to argue that she believes she deserved to pass, as she had exerted effort in the course.

    I looked her in the eye and told her, “We don’t grade effort. We grade achievement.”

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