17 DAYS LEFT – TIME TO GET THE STUDENTS READY
As anyone who reads this blog knows, I email my students obsessively. I cannot over stress how important I believe communications are with college students. Since early May, I have written my junior level students about 15 times and talked about all kinds of things.
Nevertheless, the email that I sent to them today might have been the most important email that I will send them. Our class starts in 17 days and I wanted to start “selling” them on the benefit of the work. I truly believe students will work amazingly hard if you can convince them that the results are worth the effort. Underline that sentence because it is essential. They will leap tall buildings in a single bound if they trust that you can provide an adequate amount of benefit.
So, I wrote them the following email for that one purpose – to let them know that there was work to be done, I understood that, but the change they would undergo would be worth it. That message is beyond important. Most students do work basically to get a grade. If you want greatness, you must break through that barrier and convince them this material (this learning, this understanding) is more important than that.
Here is what I wrote today:
We start class in about 17 days if my counting is correct. I realize for the students in this particular class there is always a bit of trepidation. I always want to hold your hand for a moment and say, "Don't worry. It will be fine. No one ever gets hurt." But, you probably wouldn't believe me.
I received a long hand-written letter two days ago from a student who graduated six years ago. She was (as best I remember) an average student. She wrote to tell me the following, "I am not going to pretend that your class wasn't stressful - I was shy, didn't have many friends in the B-school, & hated being wrong (especially in front of everyone) -- but, six years later, I can say without a doubt that your class prepared me for the real world. The comptroller at work doesn't look at my team and ask if anyone knows X; he demands an answer on the spot. Your, albeit, stressful class prepared me for the real world, & for that all I can say is thank you."
I suspect in the coming semester there will be days when you like me and also days when you dislike me (maybe hate me). That's the nature of my job. But, if you write back in six years and say, "You prepared me for the real world," then I will feel like you and I were tremendously successful. That, my students, is what I really want for you.
I say "you and I" because this is not my class. This is our class. Half of the responsibility is mine. Half of the responsibility is yours. I will work very hard to do my half. But we will NEVER succeed unless you put in a strong effort. You must do your half. If you do that, then I firmly believe that in six years, we will look back and we will both be thrilled by how successful that work turned out to be.