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  • Open Letter to My Students (Fall 2013)

    Posted on October 21st, 2013 Bartley No comments

    It’s the mid-semester, and that means more than a few of my students are freaking out. Here’s an open letter to those students (reproduced from an email I sent them).


    It’s that time again! Every semester, right after midterm exams, comes the “mid semester freak out.” You know, it’s that time of the semester when you ask questions like:

    • How am I ever going to pass this class?
    • What am I doing with my life??
    • I’m so stressed! Where’s that next pizza??

    First thing you have to do, put down the pizza! Get a salad in there. Your 40-year-old self will thank you.

    You also might be saying to yourself (or aloud), “Dr. Richardson doesn’t UNDERSTAND what it’s like to BE ME!!!” And part of that’s probably true, I don’t know what it’s like to be uniquely you.

    However, I do know what it’s like to be a student. Probably more than most of your other professors, I was there not that long ago. At times it’s stressful, at other times it’s incredibly rewarding. Then it becomes intensely frustrating. All of this leads to you freaking the heck out and dropping every class you have.

    “I’m just going to go open a surf shop in Mexico!” you might say to yourself, to which I have two responses.

    1. Tropical storm (soon to be hurricane) Raymond is there in the Pacific right now. Just stalled out. Dumping 10″ of rain. Right. Now. You want to be there??
    2. It’s really not as bad as you think. Take some deep breaths, calm down, and keep pushing.

    Look, nobody told you that college was going to be easy. Certainly nobody told you that I was going to be easy. I’ve been called a lot of things, but easy has yet to be one of them. Demanding, yes. Having high expectations, for sure. You’ll find similar professors throughout all departments here at TMC. It’s a reason that your College is so respected in the area. It’s a reason that your degree will mean something. And it’s a reason that the CIS Department has 100% job placement (since 2008) in the CS/CIS field after graduation. You want me to push you; you want to be challenged.

    “But I have a C! I’m FAILING this class!”

    No, no you’re not. Stop being so dramatic. Failing is an F (sometimes a D). Failing is not a C. You know what a C is? Average. A grade of B is above average. If you work hard enough and earn an A, that means you are excellent; you exceed all of my expectations. Guess what? Not everyone will get an A or even a B. You have to really work to get those.

    “But I sit in my room and read my textbook and do all the homework you assign! I’m still failing!”

    Okay, you have a C. Let’s stop calling that failing. Also, remember that I assign the minimum amount of work I think is necessary. If you’re not where you want to be, there’s one time-honored way to improve – do more work. This might mean completing more exercises/problems/programs than I assign. It might mean coming to my office hours and working through problems with me or asking me your questions. It might mean forming a study group and working problems together. Whatever the form, it’s your responsibility to seek additional assistance if you want to improve.

    “But Kate doesn’t have to do any of that! She just gets it!”

    Good for Kate. You know what else nobody told you? Nobody told you life was fair. If someone did, they lied to you. I promise you that different topics come easier to different people. Sure, Kate might be great at programming. But just wait until the next class you’re in together and you royally school her. You know what Kate’s thinking then? The exact same thing you’re thinking this semester. You just have to work a little harder right now. But it’s just that – for now.

    Look, you’re not stupid. You wouldn’t be here if you were. Some of you might be a little unmotivated, and that’s something that you have to change. It’s not too late to pass your classes. It’s not too late to be above average in your classes. You have to want it. You have to work for it. You have to earn it.

    Thus ends my mid semester “tell it like it is” motivational speech (in email form). You got this. It’s not all doom and gloom.

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