Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Passing Your Classes

This won't take long. It isn't rocket science. I have just two rules, and I'm guessing they work in just about any class -- high school or college, trade school or university. I know they work in mine.

"If you're on time, you're late" - Ron Nickel (Photo: C Imes)
Rule Number 1: Show up to class on time.

Being habitually late or absent costs you more than you know. You miss the "vibe." You miss instruction. And you quickly become out of step with the rest of the class. As one of my colleagues said recently about real jobs in real life, "If you're on time, you're late." You should be arriving at least 5 minutes early so that you can get settled and ready to learn. Breezing in at the buzzer means that it will take the first few minutes for you to be fully present. Often these first few minutes are when important announcements are made about assignments and tests, or when goals are laid out for the session. Miss that and you'll start missing points unnecessarily. You also run the risk of distracting other students and annoying your professor. You want the professor to think well of you when grading your work. We try to be unbiased, but we are human, after all. It can't hurt to send the signal that you don't want to miss a thing.

Rule Number 2: Turn in every assignment.

I suspect that many students are waiting for the right mood or the ideal work environment in which to really buckle down. Others await a stroke of brilliance that will propel them to greatness. You don't need an ideal environment and you don't need to be brilliant. You just need to get it done. A mediocre score on a mediocre paper is far better than a zero on the magnum opus you didn't write. Consistency is a lot more important in life than genius. Just keep chipping away at it and silence those voices that tell you it's not good enough. It is. It's good enough to pass the class.

Pretty simple, isn't it? Show up and get 'er done.
Simple doesn't mean easy. School is a lot of work. But no one who has followed both of these rules has ever failed one of my classes. No one.

The Fine Print (for those who want more): 

Better done than late, but better late than never. Missing a deadline so that you can improve an assignment is not usually a good idea. One late assignment often snowballs into multiple late assignments because the class has moved on to the next project. All those deductions drag your score even lower, eating away at any advantage you thought you could gain by improving your work. Just bang it out and turn it in on time. 

Sometimes life gets overwhelming and you have to make a calculated decision to skip or skimp on an assignment. On the (hopefully) rare occasion that you just can't get it done, find out if you can turn it in late and take a deduction. Nothing drags your grade down like a zero. If this happens more than once a semester, it's a sign that you're trying to do too much or that you need outside support to help you get back on track. Scale back so you can get your money's worth from your classes.

While I have your attention, I should warn you: Don't take shortcuts. Plagiarizing an assignment or cheating on a test will not help you in the long run. You may feel like it's your only option because you don't have time or don't understand the material well enough to stand on your own two feet, but you do have other options. Talk to your professor. (We actually want to help you!) Talk to the TA. Seek help from library staff or classmates. Learn how to give credit where credit is due. There is no faster track to failure than cheating. Even if you don't get caught, you'll carry the weight of that lie until you come clean.

You can pass your classes. You just have to want it enough to do the work.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Calling all World Changers!

I have an unlikely bit of advice for all those hoping to change the world:

Invest in Institutions

Photo: C Imes
Gordon Smith puts it even more strongly. In his latest book, entitled Institutional Intelligence: How To Build an Effective Organization, Smith claims that “institutions are essential to human flourishing” (3). Essential to flourishing? That’s a strong claim.

But without institutions, this world spirals into a free-for-all reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. Driven by whims or personal passions, under the constraints of our own energy levels, our positive intentions don’t last long. And without the checks and balances and combined wisdom of a group of like-minded colleagues, we run the risk of steering in the wrong direction. For lasting change, we need structures in place — structures that harness and manage resources in service of a common mission.

The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College,
an institution with a long history of training Christian leaders.
(Photo: C Imes)
I've been gradually realizing this as I invest in our 96-year old college. It may sound dull, but we need institutions the way we need a roof over our heads. We can last without shelter for a few days, maybe, but for long-term flourishing, we need a sturdy place to live. So do our ideas, our energies, and our talents.

You can increase your IIQ (Institutional Intelligence Quotient -- I just made that up) by reading the rest of my article over at The WellBy reading Smith's book, you can become even more institution-savvy.

What are you waiting for? The world needs what you have to offer.