COLUMN: How I learned to manage course expectations for a successful year | Opinion


The start of the semester is a difficult time of year for everyone, as each teacher, class, and college has different expectations for students. Some classes have daily assignments and quizzes, while others have two assignments for the entire semester. I’ve dealt with both, and it feels like a mental boost when I learn to juggle these conflicting concepts.

The diversity of expectations is a difficult problem to solve. It’s not realistic to say that teachers or colleges have to set uniform standards for every class — it would be a nightmare to coordinate — and the standard they land on might not work for all students.

This riddle makes me wonder what I can do. I’m not a teacher and I don’t think I can expect my teachers to solve this problem on their own. After all, teaching brings its own problems.

Juggling so many different tasks and expectations is such a problem in my life that I can’t just ignore it. I struggle with the blindness of time, which is essentially a lack of awareness of the passage of time. That means I’m locked in a chronic battle with late schoolwork with no discernible excuse to give teachers. Thus, I have to meticulously track which teachers accept overdue assignments without issue and which ones require a carefully worded email in case I forget an assignment.

More than one teacher has told me, “I don’t accept late homework. There is simply no reason for it. It’s annoying but manageable because I know I have to emphasize working in this class over classes with less strict policies.

What is worse, however, is the situation that happened to me last semester. I was on an English course that had weekly reflections, so naturally I was bound to lose one or two – or three or four. The first time this happened, I didn’t bother to contact my professor because the course syllabus stated that there would be absolutely no late work accepted.

The second time it happened, I decided What the hell and sent her a belated draft with an email profusely apologizing and emphasizing that she shouldn’t feel pressured to agree to it. She replied that it was not a problem and that it happens to everyone.

This caused a lot of confusion for me. How was I supposed to know she would accept it? Was there fine print in the program that I didn’t read?

I have since realized that I should have contacted the teacher in advance to check her policy, as I know late homework is a critical issue for me, but I would also have appreciated her schedule reflecting her real politics.

This struggle with late postings has affected me in many ways. Missing a deadline makes me feel ashamed and like a failure no matter how many times it happens or how cold the teacher is with their deadlines. Then I avoid communicating with the teacher because I tell myself that if I don’t recognize the problem, it didn’t happen. Without fail, avoidance makes the problem worse.

This English course was just one of many courses I have taken in my life, and unless they were taught by the same teacher, there were never two. alike. The disparity between the expectations of each class can make a student desperate, and believe me, I’ve been there. While it’s tempting to blame teachers and voice your grievances to classmates, that won’t solve your problem.

This was what my entire freshman year was like, and going into that semester, the nervousness I felt about jumping into five new classes was almost unbearable. It kept me awake at night months before the first day.

A friend of mine gave me some tips that ended up helping me a lot. She said, “If something makes you nervous, make a plan. Make a backup plan in case your plan doesn’t work. Make backup plans for your backup plans.

My plan started by asking friends for their favorite study tips and compiling them into a big list. Many of those items were pretty basic study tips like using a planner, taking breaks once in a while, or listening to music. I was worried but desperate enough to keep an open mind. The more strategies I had to try, the more options I had to choose when one of them inevitably didn’t work.

I ended up with so many tips that I have backup plans for my backup plans over 50 times. There are a few strategies I’ve implemented that have worked almost surprisingly well, and I’m appalled at how many of them are pretty basic advice.

First of all, I made it a point never to study in my apartment, especially my bedroom. Hearing that my brain could learn to associate studying with a certain space sounded like voodoo to me, but that’s exactly what happened. The study space I stumbled upon is a friend’s dining room table because before the semester started we agreed on weekly study sessions. After only two or three weeks, my brain’s power of association with this table is astounding. No matter my mood, I can just sit down, open my laptop and start working. It’s absolutely magical.

Along the same lines, I also recommend studying with someone else or creating a study group. It’s not for everyone, but I’m bad at doing my homework on my own because I can’t hold myself accountable. I always end up playing solitaire and not doing anything productive. So working with someone else who calls me when I leave a task is something simple that helps me use my time much more efficiently. Friends can make even the most mundane tasks more fun.

When evaluating my major issues from past semesters, there was another glaring issue. I’m a major in English and Spanish, which means most of my homework comes from reading or writing. However, I still avoid my reading homework because I’ve found I can get by without doing it, and reading takes me a while. The caveat with this is that I am not learning to read and analyze; I’m learning to pretend to know what I’m talking about in class discussions when I really don’t.

Not doing homework also had the unintended side effect of making me dread class. I felt like a bad student because I kept my answers ambiguous and my participation minimal. I knew I could do better than that, but I wasn’t sure how to make it manageable.

My hack to fix this problem is surprisingly simple. I invested in multi-colored highlighters and tried annotate my readings. Although it still takes some time, I like it so much that I don’t mind. By making it an interactive experience, I feel like I’m accomplishing something by reading, and by writing my thoughts and questions in the margins, I’ve become the queen of discussion in my classes.

These are just a few of the things that have worked for me, but I want to emphasize that if you’re struggling with school, sometimes going back to basics is the best thing you can do. I can’t remember how many times I was told not to do my homework in bed and thought Yeah whatever.

If you feel overwhelmed by school, there are always things you can do about it. Make a backup plan or plan. Try some new study tips. Look into the abundance of Resources on the campus. If you’re already calling this semester a washout or coming off a previous school year that went less than ideal like me, remember that you can always take control of your schedule and achieve your goals.

As I often tell myself: it’s up to you whether a late assignment or a missed class puts an end to your entire college career. Don’t let him.

Rylee Gregg is a double major in English and Spanish. Join her at [email protected].

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