Friday, November 25, 2011

Putting on a Last Minute Push

Football coaches across the country work constantly on getting their players to play especially hard at the end of each game. Often, the difference between winning and losing is based on who can put on the strongest push in the final moments. One last valiant effort can lead to a victory that will be remembered with fondness for years to come.

When my students return from Thanksgiving break, they will have one more week of classes and then final exams. In less than 2 weeks, it will be all over. They can be lethargic or they can be energized. I know what I want. I don’t want them to coast out. I want them to finish strong. Why do all this work throughout the semester only to fade out at the very end? If the material is worth learning, now is the time to put on that push to add even more knowledge and understanding.

Here at the end of the semester, I like to challenge my students to keep pushing forward. I think it is human nature; people need motivation. For students, it is quite easy to start operating on auto-pilot and just coast out. I don’t want that.

So, this morning, I went through my grade book and divided my students into six groups depending on their grade so far this semester: A students, high B students, mid-range B students, high C students, mid-range C students, and students with averages lower than C.

For each group, I composed a general email where I first reminded them of where they stood going into the last few days of the semester. I didn’t want anyone to be delusional about their grades at this point. I think students can get used to “Santa Claus graders” – teachers who give them better grades for a course despite their averages. They need to know that I am not going to play Santa Claus. You can catch a student’s attention very quickly by simply reminding them: “If you don’t do better on the final exam, you are going to get a C in this course.” Reality sets in, or maybe panic.

Through these emails, I hope to challenge every student to give their very best efforts here at the end of the semester. Below is the email that I sent out to the students who were in the high B range. I really want to see if I can’t get many of these students to step up and go for the A rather than settle for the B. I always say that I like aggressive, ambitious students who play for the win. I think they’ll remember this course with pride for a long, long time if they are able to do well on the final exam and turn that B into an A.

“I am writing this note to the students who have a relatively high B average (84.5 – 89.4) going into the final week of classes. First, let me congratulate you on a very good effort this semester. You have done well and I’m quite pleased with your effort throughout this semester. This is a challenging class and you've done well.

“I am writing, though, to urge you to put on a good push here at the end of the semester and shoot for the A. It won’t be easy but you do have the chance. Every semester, I have students who move into the A range by doing a great job on the final examination. It is the biggest part of your course grade. It can make a big difference. You are capable of that. I’m always so very pleased when a student hits a home run on the final exam and goes from B to A.

“And, I do give grades of B+ and A- so even if you don’t quite make an A, you can still improve your grade.

“There’s no shame in making a B in Accounting 201. I actually made that grade myself when I was a sophomore in 1967 and my life hasn’t been ruined. But you’ve worked so hard. I would love to see you make it all the way.

“Good luck. I’ll be cheering for you. Win, lose, or draw – it has been a pleasure working with you in class this semester. You really should consider taking more accounting. As I like to say – you seem to have the knack for it.”


  1. I can see you enjoy teaching accounting to them. You evidently care for your students. You inspire me. ;-) You are doing well in motivating them to study well. B is a good grade, and you made them believe that. All teachers should be like you.

    Nery Freiler