Thursday, 12 July 2012

Starting to Reprogram Your Students - Part Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote about sending out an initial email to start reprogramming my students to be the type of students that I wanted them to be.  Below is the second step in this process.   It is my second email to the students for the fall semester.   I emailed this note to my students this morning.

To: Accounting 302 Students

From: JH

Okay, I’m sending out a bunch of material to you folks occasionally over the course of the summer. You already have the course outline and I assume you have looked over that pretty carefully by now.

Attached is something entirely different. Everyone knows this class is challenging and that making an A takes an excellent effort. I want to help you understand (before we get started) what you need to do in order to do well in this course. So, every semester, I ask the 11 – 25 percent of the students who make an A to write a paragraph or two to explain how they managed to do so well. I cut and paste all the student responses into a single document and it is attached to this email. I firmly believe that these words can serve as a road map to help you understand how to do well in my class. I hope you’ll read and think about what they have to say. Success is not a secret.

From my experience, everyone seems to enjoy a good sports story. In sports, winning and losing is always more apparent so it is easier to see what leads to some people winning while others lose. So, here’s a sports story for you (and, unfortunately, I don’t recall the details exactly but close enough for the point I want to make).

I was watching ESPN a few years back and the announcers were talking with a retired pro basketball coach about a championship team that he had coached a few years before that date. Apparently, his team got locked into a real battle in the final playoff series. The announcers asked the coach when he knew that his team was going to win the championship. His response went something like this:

“In one of the key games, we were behind by a point with just a few seconds to play. I called timeout to set up our last shot. It was a shot that would lead to either a victory or defeat in that game and possibly for the entire series. As soon as I called timeout, all five players on the court came running to the bench yelling ‘give me the ball and let me take the last shot; I can make it.’ A lot of times when you get to a truly critical moment, no one wants to make eye contact with you. Players start staring around or looking into the stands because they don’t want to take the risk of missing that final shot. When all five players on my team were begging me to take that last shot, I knew I had a team of winners and that we would win. And we did.”

Everyone knows that I ask scores of questions in my class. That is surely no secret. Rapid fire questions based on the homework assignments. When I get to the tough areas, it is amazing how often students begin to stare at their papers or look at the ceiling. They become deeply engrossed in checking their calculators – anything other than making direct eye contact with me.

Here’s my one piece of fatherly advice. On the attached sheet of student advice, the first student says “I wanted to be called on for every question.” That is exactly what I want from you. I want you to be so well prepared each and every day that you literally sit there and pray to get called on for every single question. I cannot promise you that this attitude will get you an A but I do promise you that it will make you the kind of student who succeeds.

Okay, then the obvious question is: How do you get to where you want to be called on for every question? The second student on the attached list says “If you prepare for the class like you would for a quiz/test, then you will be successful.” Virtually all students under prepare for class. That is a given; that is nearly 100 percent. The reason is that humans don’t have much self-discipline. They don’t do real work unless they see the urgency. They prepare just enough to get by. And, then they wonder why they are just able to get by. If you want to succeed, there has to be a genuine sense of urgency (not panic or dread but urgency) in your preparation. To do that, you need to prepare each day like you expected to have a tough quiz when you walked in to class. If you can be ready for a quiz each day even though there is no quiz, you will be the student that I want in my class no matter what your grade turns out to be. You will be ready to become the kind of student that you are capable of becoming.

I know this all sounds a bit frightening but it really is a great class that you will enjoy.

Hope you are enjoying your summer. Work hard but make sure to take time to see life outside of work.

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