As we are approaching another school year, I know some people are going back as new adult learners; others are going to college directly out of high school. Some are taking courses just for continuing education.
I’ve been an adjunct college instructor for eight years. I’ve seen almost everything. The following is a list of things I think all students should know before they start school
1.) YOU ARE NOT A CUSTOMER. The fact that you pay tuition does not make you a customer. It gives you the privilege of attending a college, abiding by its rules, doing your work, and earning a grade.
2. THE SYLLABUS IS A CONTRACT. When you enroll in college, you basically enter into a contract with the institution — you will pay tuition, and in return, you are — again — given the privilege of attending classes and doing the work. When you enroll in a particular course, the syllabus you receive is a contract between you and the instructor. The deadlines, protocols, rules, expectations, assignments, and schedule are laid out ahead of time. Choosing to enroll and stay in that course means you have given your assent and consent to that syllabus — and thus, to everything in it. If you can’t abide by the deadlines, rules, etc., then do not stay in that class.
3.) THE INSTRUCTOR HAS A LIFE. I admit that every instructor is different, but the fact is — we all have lives. Believe it or not, your teacher is not a robot that gets shoved into a closet at the end of the day and powered back on in the morning. They go home to families, pets, often other jobs, grading, problems. If they do not respond to your email within ten seconds, that means they are busy doing something else. Often, they will have a policy in their syllabus about timelines for responses. If it says “I return emails within 48 hours,” do not expect that they will necessarily respond to yours within two hours.
4.) YOU ARE NOT OWED A GRADE. Please refer to #1. That tuition you pay does not guarantee you anything other than that you will be able to a.) attend class, b.) do the work, and c.) get the grade you earn. If you don’t turn in work on time — or you turn in substandard work — or you don’t attend class or do the assigned readings or whatever — then you shouldn’t expect a good grade.
5.) DEADLINES ARE DEADLINES. Do not ask the instructor for an extension. You know when things are due. It’s in the syllabus. Or if it’s not, you should ask when things are due. That’s your responsibility. Get a planner. Put things in your cell phone’s calendar. Heck, get a wall calendar and a red marker if you need to, but pay attention to the deadlines. Think about it this way: if you missed a deadline at work, what would your boss say? My guess is something along the lines of, “You’re fired.” Now. Why should your teacher say anything different?
6.) I AM NOT A BARISTA. THIS IS NOT STARBUCKS. Enrolling in a class does not give you the right to treat your instructor as your employee. They am not. You are paying for their expertise, knowledge, and time. In return, they expect respect. In fact . . .
7.) BEING A STUDENT IS A LOT LIKE BEING AN EMPLOYEE. Your employer expects certain things from you: be on time, be respectful, dress appropriately, behave appropriately, treat everyone else with respect, pay attention, etc. Your instructor expects the same things. Just imagine that when you come to class, you’re coming to work.
8.) PUT THE FREAKING CELL PHONE AWAY. You will live without your cell phone for an hour. And if you can’t, then maybe you need to be in an online class. And going along with that . . .
9.) CONTACT YOUR INSTRUCTOR ONLY AS THEY TELL YOU TO. If they give you their cell phone number and tell you not to text them, don’t text them. If they tell you not to call between certain hours, don’t. If they tell you to email them only through your LMS, don’t email them in any other manner. Remember, there’s a reason why they’ve laid down those rules. Some instructors allow — even encourage — phone calls; others don’t. Some prefer to have the permanency of email. Whatever policies they have in place, follow them.
10.) RESPECT YOUR INSTRUCTOR. Most instructors are there because they care, they want to teach, and they love their subject. Most instructors respect their students unless you give them a reason not to. Being disrespectful to them is the surest way to make sure you lose their respect in return. Do not go above their heads. Do not argue about every little thing you don’t like. Don’t be OCD. Think for yourself. Follow instructions. Really, this is common sense.
11.) DON’T BE ENTITLED. You are not entitled to anything in a class. The only thing you are entitled to is this: to show up, do your best work, and be given a grade accordingly. That’s it.