… from a Professor

Penny #1: Don’t be stupid

I know, I know. This sounds trite and stupid and motherly and completely non-specific. Here’s what I mean: you were (probably) raised with good morals and values. If the white collar criminals I study were, so were you (probably). I hope you packed your ability to choose situations in which you will not compromise your safety, nor your ability to make rational decisions (hi, alcohol). If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably a good kid. Just stay the good kid you are. Don’t try to invent a new personality to seemingly fit in with a new crowd. 

Holding True  9 Cents Worth of Advice for College Freshmen August 25, 2014

Penny #2: Step away from the lanyard.

Each semester we talk about organizational culture in my upper level organizational behavior class. Always, without fail, when I ask, “give me an example of something at WSU that happens that isn’t specifically communicated in words or text.” Invariably, without fail, every. single. semester. the juniors and seniors say this:

“only freshmen wear lanyards”

Penny #3: Your old backpack is your friend

This may be too late, being the first day of classes and all, but a crunchy new backpack screams freshman. If you don’t want to stick out, maybe rough it up a bit or unpack that well-worn, trusted friend named North Face or Jansport.

Penny #4: Get your butt to class

If you think for one second skipping class (on the first day or otherwise) is a good idea, think again. Yes, we house a lot of our content online. No, we probably don’t care if you come or not (except the first day when you can be administratively dropped to make room for others on a wait list). No, typically we don’t police attendance or call parents. Frankly, we don’t have time and you’re (technically, scarily) an adult now. But, you’re gonna miss stuff and that’s important. Students who show up, get more attention, naturally. If I know your name and I see your bright, shiny, oily face regularly, I’m going to be more understanding if something (really) happens and you need to arrange an exam, missed assignment or whatever. If you’re never here, tough luck, Charlie. Then we feel as though we’re being taken advantage of and we tend to enforce our syllabus rules more rigidly.

Penny #5: Politeness counts for a lot.

I just did this in my first two classes and will communicate it in my third in the next 20 minutes: Addressing me as “hey” at the start of an email is rude and unprofessional. It’s my personal pet peeve. Respect the peeves. When in doubt, use titles. Professor, Dr. or Miss/Mr. I cannot stress how much joy it brings to us old fogies when a kid is just plain nice and polite. Small talk at the beginning of class is a bonus. Ask us about our weekend/summer/day/family and reciprocate when we do the same. Nice kids are nice to work with. Rude or dismissive kids are not. We don’t care about cool.

Penny #6: Communicate

If something comes up, just tell us. Nicely. An email before the fact  – like when you wake up sick on test day, not after the exam has happened – is imperative. Last semester I had several students who went through moms with cancer, torched apartments, lost jobs, breakups and divorces. As long as you ask for leniency and don’t expect it after the event, we’re pretty flexible. Before.

Penny #7: Read the syllabus.

Two questions that should never happen. 1 – do we need the book. 2 – did we do anything in class. Good Lord, people. No, we did nothing in class today. I just stood up front and picked my nose for 50 minutes for 40 people. Read the syllabus. That’s what we did. Get the book. There’s important stuff in it.

Penny #8: Take notes.

My notes are my notes, not yours. Take your own notes. I’ll give you the PowerPoint after the lecture, not before. Otherwise, what do you need me for?

Penny #9: We know when you’re not paying attention.

I may stop the class if you’re involved in a particularly juicy Facebook chat and I can tell you are. (Seriously, we can see that.) Personally, I just stop and wait until you’re done. I stop talking, announce to the class we’re going to wait until you are done and then all eyes turn to you. Trust me, you don’t want this to happen. Ditto for instant messenger, texting and any other technology in which I’m not well versed. My job is to make the class interested so you don’t have to revert to Facebook. Work with me on this. 

Just like pennies that you come across on the ground, you can choose to pick them up and put them in your pocket or just walk on by. So, too, are the pennies in this blog post. Valuable if you want them to be.