It’s after Labor Day, and most schools are again in session. So here’s a bit of back-to-school advice. When my daughters went off to college, I advised them about balancing bank accounts, safety, and getting along with roommates. And I offered them a few suggestions about what I know best: How to please a professor. Of course, there’s the obvious – do your work and go to class. All successful students do that. But there are other, more subtle ways to make a positive impression on someone who makes a final judgment on you. Whether a college, high school, junior high, or elementary school student, here’s some tips to make any academic star shine a bit brighter.
Get a Good Seat
In most classes, there’s a choice on where to sit. Come early on the first day and sit up front. In a large class, aim for the T-zone: across the front or in a line up the middle. Students sitting in the very back by the door are sending a message: I want out.
Even if you’re not the least bit interested in European history at eight in the morning, fake it. Don’t yawn open-mouthed or pull a cap down over your eyes and hunker down in your seat. And whatever you do, make sure you turn-off your phone and don’t pick it up until the class is over!
First Impressions Count
Work hard on the very first paper you hand in. Study hard for the very first test you take. Your teacher doesn’t yet know who you are. Set the standard with a great first impression.
Participate in The Discussion
Resolve to say at least one thing the first week of class. Show you’ve read the assignment. Ask intelligent questions. Talk in class. But not too much. Don’t hold forth to make yourself look smart. Don’t become that person who always has an answer – even it’s the wrong one.
Making an appearance after class has begun is distracting and rude. Many teachers start their classes with important announcements that stragglers will miss.
Complete Your Assignments
Makeup work you missed without calling attention to yourself. Never email a teacher and ask: “Did I miss anything?” Trust me, you did.
Make a Connection
Teachers have office hours for a reason. Visit to ask for help or clarify a point you didn’t understand. Stop by their office to add something to the conversation about a topic discussed in class.
Especially on the assignments, you hand in. Proofread anything you write. Remember that spell-check can’t do all the work because it misses homonyms like too/to/two or their, there, and they’re.
If you need help, let your teacher know. Teachers are people, too. We can make accommodations for someone with a disability, a health problem, a family emergency. But we can’t help you if you don’t tell us.
Teachers have their favorites. Don’t ever think we don’t. But often, our favorites are not the smartest ones in the class. They’re the kids who try hard and who seem grateful that they have the opportunity to learn.
Finally, our last back-to-school advice is to let your teachers know how much you appreciate them by giving them a thank you gift! It doesn’t matter if the gift is big or small, and could even be a handwritten card!