5 Way to Impress Me

I have t-minus 14 days until I meet my 13 new first-years.  (Well, it’ll probably end up being more than that since there is a group that still needs to register for classes.)  I’ll get to meet my adult studies students the week after that.

I very much enjoy teaching, especially teaching freshmen, even with all the headaches they often bring.  They’re fresh out of high school.  They’re shy and cocky, they think an A in high school English will mean an A in college English, they think 27 is old.  They think they can get away with goofing off in class then get highly embarrassed when you call them on it.  I probably complain about them a lot to my husband, but truthfully, teaching first-years keeps me on my toes and makes my days much more interesting.

I don’t consider myself a particularly strict teacher, but I do have certain things I ask of my students that I expect them to follow.  The syllabus I hand out the first week of class should be their Bible – it’s not just fluff.  I typically don’t make exceptions for things I put in there.  Really, if I spend that much time writing up something for you, you should probably read it.

So here’s a list of five ways to impress me as my student.  You want to get and stay on my good side?  Follow these do’s and don’t’s.

1. Spell my name right.  It’s on the syllabus.  It’s also on that “Writing Guidelines” sheet I give you at the beginning of class.  I also type it on the screen for you to see, when we go over AGAIN how to format your papers correctly.  It’s Mrs. Alicia Hernandez-Burr.  Not Ms.  Not Miss.  Not Hernandez.  Not Hernadez.  Not Hernandez Burr.  My name is the second thing I see on your paper (besides your name), so if you don’t get it right, I’m already irritated.

2.  Format your papers correctly.  We’ll go over this many times, so I expect you to get it right by your second paper.  If it’s the fourth paper and you’re still getting it wrong, you’ll probably get major points taken off just because you put three spaces between your heading and title instead of one.  Really, I’m that anal about it.  If you don’t format it correctly, I assume you’re lazy and/or don’t give a shit, and neither of those are attitudes you want me to have in the back of my mind as I grade your paper.  It’s really not that hard, people.

3. Show up for class when you can and stay in touch with me when you can’t.  I always have an absence policy simply for the fact that I highly detest being asked dumb questions that I know a student is only asking because they missed class.  When you miss class, you get behind.  I am happy to help students catch up when they miss for legitimate reasons, but I’m not going to take your late assignment when you disappeared for two weeks.  And I’m not going to let you make up the in-class journal when you “forgot” to set your alarm and walked in 30-min late to a 50-min class (for that matter, I won’t let you sign in as not absent either).  You know my absence policy very early on – I’m not going to suddenly change it just for you.

4. Put away the phone and laptop.  Whether I’m teaching in a traditional or tiered classroom, I can tell when you’re trying to text on a phone in your lap.  I’m tired of asking politely.  You get a blanket warning at the beginning of the semester, and after that I’ll probably just embarrass you by taking it away in front of everyone.

5. Open and close your mouth.  Nothing probably bothers me more than hearing little whispers (or not so little whispers) while I’m trying to hear something another student is saying.  My hearing is not that good, so any extra noises makes it almost impossible to understand them.  Show respect for both me and the other students by keeping your comments to yourself until the end of class.

On the opposite side, I highly appreciate students making an effort to participate in class.  Even if you’re unsure about your ideas, or just want to pose a question for discussion, making an effort will get you serious brownie points.  I once had a student whose comments were always a little off and sometimes even a little uncomfortable.  However, at least he tried to facilitate some discussion.  On my class comments sheets, the comment I often get the most is the complaint that they wished more people had participated in discussions.  So really, it’s not just me who wants to hear your ideas – your fellow students do as well.

I really don’t care how well you can write – if you can’t follow some of these rules to impress me (especially the ones dealing with absences and participation), you’re likely not to make an A.  That may seem a little harsh, but I make the effort to 1) get your names right, 2) make my handouts readable, 3) show up to teach on time, 4) focus on you instead of my text messages, and 5) listen to you speak and offer up discussion on things you might want to talk about.

I only ask that you do the same.


3 Responses to “5 Way to Impress Me”

  1. Do they have to call you Mrs. Hernandez-Burr as well or will you allow them to shorten it like we did with Dr. C.?

  2. Oh, I’m much more lax on what they call me. I used to get Ms. Alicia all the time. I try to give them options for whatever they’re comfortable with. Mrs. Hernandez-Burr is difficult to say. So I’ll probably encourage the Mrs. H-B. 🙂 Last semester I got a lot of Mrs. Hernandez – I mean, Mrs. Burr – I mean, Mrs… haha.

    I’ll try to keep it simple so I don’t confuse them. But when it comes to what they write on their formal papers, I expect them to get it right. 🙂


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