Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

For those not familiar with formula one racing, the title phrase of this post is the phrase that marks the start of the annual Indianapolis 500. Thirty-three racecars roar to life in the hot summer sun, their drivers' hearts pumping as adrenaline courses through their bodies.

That phrase should also mark the start of the new semester. Over twenty-five thousand students come to life amidst the remnants of a recent snowfall, their hearts and minds anticipating the new semester. For some, this is their first or second semester at UT. For others, like me, this is their final semester at UT. My semester is once again marked by an initial excitement and expectation. So far, my classes look good. Not easy, but good.

My Spanish teacher is a native speaker, so that should make a huge difference. My Anthropology prof is one of a handful of anthropologists who are experts on oil spills, so he has been widely consulted on some of the recent disasters such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf. I have Geography later on today and my history seminar doesn't start until next week.

How does one start a new semester well, in anticipation of all that it will bring? There are a few things I've learned in my journey as a nontrad:
1. Be prepared. One does not have to be an ex-Scout to employ this tactic. Have your supplies - book, notebook, charged laptop, pens or pencils, travel pack of Kleenex - before you get to class. Profs like prepared students. Preparation is indicative of a serous learner.
2. Be alert. Be ready to participate in class. Listen to other students in the class as well as the prof when asking/answering questions.
3. Be present. I don't understand the students who only show up for exams then whine they got a bad grade. I am paying for these classes, I want to get my money's worth! Attendance and participation can often mean the difference between getting a B or an A for the class.
4. Be organized. Before heading off to class, make sure you have all the tools you'll need for that class - book, notebook, laptop and flashdrive, Scantron answer sheet or green book (if it's an exam day), pen or pencil, readings for that day (if separate from the book), etc. The class experience will be better for you if you are organized.
5. Be courteous. Don't text in class. Turn off your cell phone. Don't talk when the prof is talking. These things are common courtesy, but overlooked by many of today's younger generation. (Doesn't that make me sound old!!)

If this is your first semester in class, congratulations! You are about to embark on a wonderful journey. Strap yourself in and hang on! If this is your last semester, congratulations! We're almost there! If you are somewhere in between, hang in there. You're moving forward. Keep the goal in sight and you will do fine! I raise my glass in honor of all my fellow nontrads. Start your engines!! Stay tuned . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post! I'm also starting my last semester, and like you, I'm happy with what will be my last classes. I like your tips for getting off to a good start. One more I might add is "Be open" - to classmates, to opportunities that might come up, to challenging yourself, to whatever! I hope you have a great semester.