Why Your First Day Of Class Can Be The First Day To Fail

“This is easy”, I said to myself as I strolled out of the auditorium. “All this old guy does is talk and put notes up on a projector screen. It’s a piece of cake” (wow, I was cocky). Those were my very thoughts in my first Animal and Veterinary Science course. What this old guy talked about seemed so simple to remember that I didn’t need to study–and best of all was that he gave no homework or other assignments. I had it made…or so I thought.im_not_cocky_tshirt-p2357935834435981683ozk_210

My laid-back attitude in his class began to creep into my others, and before I knew it I was justifying my slack work ethic in all of them. Soon, I was able to justify turning in late projects, doing “B” level work when an extra night of work could have gotten me an “A” and lying to my professors as to why I had not completed certain phases on projects just because I knew that they had so many students that they couldn’t remember my name long enough to discipline me. I was on a roll–a fast roll to fail.

This is the attitude that snowballed for the next two and a half years until my GPA bore fruit of my First Day Attitude with a dismall 1.96–I still shake my head in shame of that. Now listen well, and don’t close this post: I earned that GPA, and it started the first day of class. If your attitude is not set to succeed on the first day, then your result will be failure. They put me on academic probation and the very next semester my semester GPA was a 3.5–yeah, you read that correctly. No, i didn’t take underwater basket weaving and Jedi Principles 301 to boost my GPA–I took real courses. However, my attitude on the first day was totally different. dunce hatNow I must admit, the situation surrounding that entire semester was nothing short of a miracle, but it would not have occurred without a change in my attitude. “So what did I do differently?” you might ask. Well, let’s see. Here is one thing that I did differently, and I will post the next thing tomorrow:

#1) I Counted The Cost of Failure

When I started college, I had colleges begging me to come and be a part of their education and athletic families. I was finding money everywhere. Also, to make matters worse, each semester I had more money than I needed–alot more. I had enough money to eat out, start bank accounts, treat girls, buy presents, go to every party and never miss a game. So everything was free–I saw no costs. I forgot that my family was recovering from some major financial mistakes, and that the money that I was receiving was my only option. When my GPA dropped, I lost all of that money, and thanks to my lavish lifestyle I found myself starting school with $20, a 13-inch black and white television that got no channels, a 1992 Ford Tempo and a box of junk that I called my closet. It was going to be a long semester.

At that point, it was almost too late to count the cost of failure. I found that the cost was steeper than I could afford and greater than I had ever imagined. I was able to see the stress and disappointment that I placed on my family. Now, every minute of my life was a race to survive because I had now entered the most difficult phase of my degree and I had not learned the basic fundamentals required. I didn’t know that financial aid has a cut off date and monetary limit so I was officially off of my time and on theirs–I HAD to graduate within a short amount of time or ELSE. All of my dreams were on a timeline as well, and I had officially made them late. When you count the cost of failure, it might keep you up at night more than your chemistry homework will…

“I’m Not Doing It Unless You Make Me”

Okay, first let me say that I apologize for being gone for so long. Although it is the summer, I am still teaching full time. Not only that, but I have been balancing the rest of the time between being an positive impact in the lives of my community and respecting the lives that have impacted myself.

Communication problem, 3d illustration with cartoon character

This time, I have something to toss out there for all of you: to what extent is a teacher responsible for their student’s success?

I am attempting to see this from both sides of the desk. How do you guys feel about this?

Step Three to Student Success Tip #4

Step3: Know Your Limits. If you have never been in this situation of life before, then proceed cautiously. If you have never been married while in school, if you have never had kids to care for while in school, if you have never worked a job and attended school, if you have always gone to school because you were made to go and never had a desire to go for yourself, then you are now embarking on a journey of something new. You have never been here before–so treat it that way. Now, I didn’t say ‘be afraid’, but instead you should be discerning and wise. Understand that this is not like the last time, and that life’s newly added factor will not allow it to be like last time. Your wife and children will be more than happy to agree with me on this account. When I say Know Your Limits I mean count the costs. What are you willing to sacrifice and just what are you willing to lay aside for a season of time? Too often, new students think that because they have 24 hours in a day and that only 8 of them are at work, they believe that they have 16 hours for school. But how much time do you spend in a car each day? How much time is spent with your kids? How much time is spent with your spouse/partner? How much time is spent shopping and doing chores? How much time is spent in class? How much time is spent at church/synagogue/mosque? How much time is spent sleeping and resting? Trust me, you don’t have as much time as you think that you do. You really need to know how much time that you really have, and how much time can you function on?busy mom

Step Two to Student Success Tip #4

Step2: Become Honest With your Calendar. I have never understood why a student would take 12 credit hours of intense science courses during a 10 week summer semester , and try to plan a week long vacation with friends (I did this with my weekends, and boy did my GPA pay for it). Inevitably, they return from this vacation shocked that they were unable to study Chemistry and Calculus in the lounge section of the club on ladies night. I had my share of late nights in the club and frat parties, and I paid for it in Monday exams (to make it worse, I remember the parties more than I do the exams that I bombed).timemanagement There are moments on a calendar which will involuntarily switch your focus from the world of the academics to the world of personal issues. Now of course people believe that they can be the one person to defy these odds, although they have never attempted anything like this before. I have had students who were pregnant, students who were getting married during the semester, students finalizing a divorce, undergoing a bankruptcy, moving from another state, living in their car and more. These students passed AND graduated–HOWEVER, I have had several fail and not complete school during these moments . The difference that I observed fell upon timing and understanding their calendar. Those who succeeded knew that time was of the essence and planned their life around their education, or obtained a academic schedule that could be formed around their life and focused on keeping it that way. Because of the careful planning and wise counsel, they were able to use the timing of their situation to their advantage, instead of their situation taking advantage of them and taking away their time.

Step One to Student Success Tip #4

Step 1: Who Is More Important Than this Class? Whoever is more important than this class will receive more attention than your grade*. Oh, don’t believe me? Ask a single mom who is trying to become a nurse. She has officially been faced with one of the most difficult challenges of her life when she is left to balance Organic Chemistry and Microbiology with her 7 year old and her 12 year old (who acts like she is 18). She must make a decision very quickly. Successful students (who are parents) have told me that they have had to make their children a priority at all times, but their studies a priority at designated times. Set apart times that the family recognizes as off limits. However, the more people that you add to this priority list, the less time that you have to pass the class.