Why So Serious?

One of my all-time biggest mistakes that I made when taking science classes was that I took the first 2 weeks of school to take my time and get comfortable with the class–but you had to know how my brain worked. When I say that I got comfortable, I mean that I got in as many “welcome back” parties and video game hours before the first test. The teacher started teaching in the 4th chapter so I skipped the first 3 as well, failing to ask WHY they skipped them.  Most teachers are assuming that you will read over previous chapters to understand the current one, or that you have had courses that have adequately prepared you for theirs.

His name is the Joker, but he was quite serious about what he did. How long does it take you to get serious about a class?

The first two weeks of class can be seen as resembling the first 5 yards that a wide receiver in football is running. Jerry Rice–one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the position–once said that what you do within the first 5 yards that you are running will determine whether or not you will actually catch the ball. The same with most science courses. The first two weeks of concepts will determine whether or not you will catch the keys of understanding later in the semester. Take the time at the first 2 weeks to question  your instructor over those basics. Find out which concepts will be necessary for understanding things later and ask them to be specific. If your teacher is as prepared as they claim to be, then they will give you oodles of example as to why you have to know that entire list of terms. It also helps to bring more clarity and understanding as what is important now versus what is important later.

I’m A Pro At Crastination

Every semester, I create a detailed lesson plan that spans from the first day of class to the day that the final grade is delivered to Student Records. People tell me that I am very organized and a little too diligent–but what they do not know is that I have a Ph.D in procrastination so I know it quite well.

Having a detailed plan that follows dates, times and strategic goals is the one method that keeps me from treating my students like I treated classes when I was the student. When your instructor gives you a timetable of academic events, use it to your advantage. I would probably say that when I finally began doing this in college, it protected me from the inevitable’s of life. Some of my unavoidable inevitable’s were:

Break-up with a bitter/revenge oriented girlfriend

All expense paid trip to Florida for Spring Break

New part time job

Opportunity to participate in Graduate research as an Undergrad

Racist Death threat by angry alumni

Transmission issues with my car

Ice storm

Teacher spilled acid on my midterm

These are just a few that I can name. Each of them affected my life in a good way or a bad way, but because I established a strategic schedule before the semester started, I was able to manipulate my priorities and the situations in order to best be able to achieve my ultimate goal.

Here is how I would suggest doing this:

a. Obtain a timetable of due dates from your instructor, and work everything else around these dates.

b. Figure out what your academic goals are for the semester (i.e., I want to make all B’s). Now, align everything in such a way that you have enough time, resources and talent in order to do so.

c. Remove items from your calendar that do not funnel your time, resources and talent into obtaining your academic goals. This is when saying “No” becomes necessary.

d. And remember to stick to the plan…but make the plan a living document. That means that its existence forces you to actively perform, yet it allows flexibility for those unexpected moments that you simply cannot deny (like the death threat).

Try these for your next semester, and let me know how it goes!