My name is Garrett. I'm a university professor in Florida. I'm also a normal Gen-Y guy with some privileged information that I want to push out to all of my fellow Gen-Y students in the world.
It's time a professor shared a thing or two with you, candidly. You deserve it! I hope this letter will increase your confidence in the classroom, and give you a few successful pointers to bolster that oh-so-important GPA of yours.
Here are a few things you should know, that most of your professors will probably never tell you:
1. We give better grades to the students who come to see us during office hours.
It's true. Here's why: When you visit your professor during office hours, your professor provides you with his or her unguided attention, particularly about your paper or the problem in class that you are struggling with.
We simply can't provide our undivided attention to you in class. When you take us up on our offer to visit during office hours, you subsequently receive more precise direction and, sometimes, exact answers.
2. You're smarter than you think you are. You just have to come to class prepared.
Look, if you've taken the tests and gotten into any college, you have what it takes to succeed in the classroom.
I understand your fear of failure, and I know you think the kids who got a perfect score on their standardized tests are smarter than you, but a lot of times that's just simply not the case.
Standardized tests are master-able by formulaic memorization, and they do not adequately capture the many various forms of human intelligence. If you don't believe me, go read "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman. Once you've read that, check out "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.
Your intelligence is the most moldable thing about you. It grows where you water it. You're not born smart; your intelligence is constructed.
I hope these resources will help you realize that you are smart, regardless of your standardized test score. A majority of your success ultimately just depends on doing your assignments and asking questions in class.
You'd be surprised how much smarter you feel after a few weeks of asking questions and doing your assignments. It's a huge confidence booster to come to class prepared. Honestly, this is something I only recently learned in graduate school.
3. Never underestimate the importance of asking questions.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will help you succeed more than asking questions in class. This is the best way to remain engaged in class and it also helps your professor understand what he or she needs to further clarify.
We professors…we're not perfect, alright? Don't forget that. We over-complicate things and say stuff that flies right over your head all the time. And it's not because we're smarter than you. It's because, in those moments, we're not emotionally intelligent enough to realize that what we just said kind of sucked.
In my classes, I give students permission to tell me when I say something in a way that kind of sucks. Professors need student accountability in order to grow as professors. You are actually doing us a huge favor when you ask questions.
If that's not reason enough to ask questions in class, I'll give you yet another reason: All teachers pick favorites. The teachers who deny having favorites are damn liars.
Our favorite students are those who ask questions in class. We hate hearing ourselves talk for an hour and 15 minutes and we would really like to pause for a sip of that cold beverage that has been warming up beside us on our podium while we've been blabbering on about our slides, which we really should have presented ANY other way. Dear God…death by PowerPoint is real and it should be a crime.
4. One more thing: Pick your classes intentionally.
Your time in school will come and go in the blink of an eye and you won't get it back. Consider every class you take an invitation to a banquet, where you can feast your mind on a plethora of questions and answers. Many of you won't encounter this privilege again, unless you decide to return for graduate school.
Don't opt for the easy route. Forgo your frisbee class credit and push yourself a little bit. Remember, if you put your mind to it, you can do it. When you pick your classes intentionally, you just might fall in love with some subject you would have never otherwise taken had you opted for the easy route.
Hey, then maybe you'll get to teach beautiful souls for the rest of your life like I get to do.