Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Hate My College Classes! Help!

An unengaged student sleeps on a desk next to a pile of newspapers.
Bored in Class?  Image by Cristiano Betta
I admit it freely.  I am a terrible student. 

I inadvertently make faces while professors are lecturing.  I doodle or stare at the clock.  I judge and compare professors' teaching abilities.  I lose patience when they repeat themselves or tediously beat the deadest horses.  I become Socratic, and I ask questions beyond the scope of the lesson to alleviate boredom.  I am guilty.

However, because of my past sins, I have learned a few ways to get through even the dullest or worst-taught courses.  There are three secrets to getting though a bad college course: show up, show off, and show initiative.

1. Show up!  Yes, even to the most tedious of your classes.

Showing up to class is of the utmost importance.  If the class or professor has disappointed you, the best thing to do is to keep showing up and giving him or her the chance to be redeemed.  Additionally, although you may not like the professor's teaching style in the classroom, showing up to class gives that professor a chance to get to know you, which makes him or her much more likely to help you out during office hours.  Trust me, students who skip class all semester and ask for help in the eleventh hour aren't going to make it.  Students who come to class every session and pop in to see the professor during office hours as the semester progresses are going to get the help they need.

2. Show off!  I'm not talking handstands; I'm talking papers.

If your knowledge base is beyond that of the majority of the other students in your class, chances are you are bored with the class.  Or maybe the topic is boring.  Well, the truth is you're going to be bored with jobs, people, circumstances, and situations throughout your entire life, so it's your job to find a way to get over it.  You can get over it by spending more time in your head, considering advanced concepts and planning your papers.  Take excellent notes during class that include not only key concepts from the lecture, but your own ideas.  Jot down potential thesis statements or hypothesis for investigation.   Create your outline and begin an annotated bibliography.   Find a way to make the research topic relevant to you.  Leave regurgitation and book reports to the masses, and use your papers as an opportunity to show off, stretch your knowledge base, and challenge yourself.  Would you be working on your paper if you weren't in class?  No?  Then go to class, take notes, and work on your original, inspiring, super-wow paper.

3. Show initiative!  Lead group projects and discussions.

Picture this: You've been furiously working on your thesis statement up in the first row when suddenly the room gets loud.  You look around.  It's not time to leave, but students are moving around.  It's time for group discussion. Instead of heading for the bathroom or hiding under your seat, take the opportunity to participate.  Really participate and put your leadership skills to the test.  It's something new and different, so it may wake you up.  You also get a chance to share your ideas with the group and get feedback.  Someone may say something insightful that changes your paper.  You might get an opportunity to explain or teach a concept.  Don't be bitter about it, and certainly don't get pompous.  Just help your classmates.  They need you, and it's a learning opportunity for both you and them.  Saying something or explaining something to someone out loud is much different than just simply knowing it "in your head."  Group discussion questions are great practice for essay questions on exams hint hint.

So, the next time you find yourself edging toward being a terrible student like me, just remember there are ways to turn it around.  Always show up for class, use what you can from class to complete original research that interests you, and take opportunities to get involved when they come your way.  It'll make your semester go by that much more smoothly.

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