Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence. ~Abigail Adams

Here we are at the end of the semester, and I am on the receiving end of a flurry of new-foundinterest in the courses I teach. Weirdly, that interest seems to focus on grades, so it seems a good idea to repeat some advice I wrote for students at the beginning of the academic year two years ago. Listen up, kids---this advice applies (for the most part) to the end of the semester as much as to the beginning, and bonus! It applies to all your classes in your entire four, six, or ten years in college.


Dear 200 students who have me this semester,

Welcome to the academic year. Some of you are just beginning at university, and some are looking forward to graduating at the end of this year. All of you have the opportunity to contact me throughout the semester, and in anticipation of the flood of email I will receive 15 weeks from now, allow me to help you avoid sending the sort of nonsensical emails that are universally received with eye rolls and relentless mocking by faculty. Please note that in a decade of teaching, I have received approximately one million emails similar to the following. They have never once worked.

* * * * *

Ten Dopey Things Students Say to Their Professors
(with appropriate responses)

1. “Could you round my grade up? It would really help my GPA.” I am glad you understand some basics of mathematics—adding points will always be good for someone's GPA.

2. “I just got my grade on ___________. This is HIGHLY unacceptable.” I agree. It is based on your highly unacceptable submission that still gives me nightmares.

3. “I worked really hard on this.” Aside from the fact that this statement is entirely subjective, it reveals a profound lack of understanding of the purpose of grades. Grades are based on results, not effort. For this you should be grateful, as in the future it will help you avoid encountering a surgeon who doesn't really know what he's doing but is fishing around in your chest trying really hard.

4. “I would like to [do XYZ differently than the standards for everyone] because I am going to [be on vacation, have family visiting, some event other than emergency surgery or my own death].” The choices you have made until now have given you an interesting choice to make now. This choice doesn’t involve me.

5. “I don’t have the money for a book and wonder if I can borrow yours.” No. Please note that showing me your $300 cell phone as you are poor-mouthing is particularly bad form.

6. “I know you said _________, but…” No.

7. “I’m on academic probation and I’m going to be kicked out of school if I don’t pass this class.” Believe it or not, I sympathize with your plight as your bad choices catch up with you; however, no.

8. “This is the second time I’ve taken this course.” That is a shame. I hope you do something differently on time number three.

9. “My grades are important to me.” This has to be the most meaningless statement in the history of humankind.

10. “I want the grade I deserve.” I wish I could give it to you, but unfortunately, the grading scale does not go to J-.

* * * * *

Best wishes for a meaningful education,
Your professor

~Shyla Lefever