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'Tis the season


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Lauren Peckler
Columnist
By Lauren Peckler
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 1, 2004
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As Thanksgiving passed us all by in a flash and Christmas is just around the corner, I know we're all stressed. It can't be true, though, that the worn, depressed, and borderline neurotic expression that I so frequently project has anything to do with the holidays.

See, for us students, it's more than just shopping frenzies, feasting mayhems, or familial crises - it's crunch time.

This first day of December signifies the beginning of crunch time for every student who knows that these last three weeks are crucial.

All of a sudden those classes you've been sleeping through (or those classes you ignored because they were so easy) creep up behind you. How well do I have to do on this last essay? Should I have done that extra credit three weeks ago? What exactly is all this homework worth?

As the days start to disappear and you realize that all your bridges have been burned, everything and anything that could possibly raise your grade goes through your head.

Well, I'm here to remind you that although lame ideas like sending out past funeral notices in hopes for pity may sound like a great way to boost your grade, sometimes the obvious and simplest way is the best.

Go talk to your instructors.

I know this may sound like a lost cause, as most of us view our instructors as these untouchable and apathetic beings who we'd have no inclination to start a discussion with.

There are plenty of reasons why we never bother to take our concerns or worries to those who actually decide our grades. "Oh, I don't have enough time...My teacher doesn't like me anyway...There's no way they'll change my grade...I'm afraid of that mean old man."

Basically, what it all comes down to is laziness and preconceived notions. I know I thought what most students think when I was a freshman. Their education qualifications and experience in their fields intimidated me.

Being obsessive-compulsive, I decided one day that it was worth a try to just stop by their office and ask a few questions.

I can't tell you how important it is to talk to your instructors.

Besides the mushy lifelong relationship you just might form with them, you just might perform better on tests or understand more about their expectations.

Most are probably wondering how this applies to them now, since the semester is almost over.

It does make a difference if you approach your instructors, even if you only have one more class left with them. I find that most of the time they are thrilled just to see a student in their office. It means that person actually cares about the class. And they might even give you a few extra points for coming to them and showing your concern.

Especially with new instructors, specifically the TAs or graduate students, they're usually open to comments and criticisms from students. Show them an essay and ask if they understand what your point was, and then explain what your point was.

In general, try to remember that these instructors are human, and they do err, and they do have opinions. I like to tell myself, "Anything can happen."

Once you've decided that speaking with your instructor is worth the try, there are a few tips that could help you with the process.

No. 1 in my book: Don't act defensive. If you come to them whining or crying about how unjustified their grade was on an essay or test, they're most likely to write you off or look for more errors. Consider those lessons on good relationships where they always say to use more "I" statements and less "You" statements.

If you believe that there was a mistake or inappropriate grade, tell them upfront.

Coming to the meeting prepared and knowledgeable improves your chances of leaving with a higher grade.

If you didn't even do the essay or wrote in code or something ridiculous, don't expect much. On the other hand, if you know exactly what parts you thought were graded unfairly, that shows the instructor you're serious and that you at least believe you have a solid argument.

Scheduling a meeting as opposed to just showing up also helps, since both you and they have time to consider your situation.

Overall, think of it as an interview, or a chance to give a first impression (we all know that most of us have never even spoken to our instructors).

Dazzle them! Show them that you're more than just that kid who drools in class.

As the end of the semester approaches and we're all dog-tired of essays and exams, finding your second wind and flattering your instructors just might bring some holiday cheer.

Lauren Peckler is a sophomore majoring in English and sociology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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