Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth – Mike Tyson
Letters….I GET LETTERS!!!! Actually, I get emails, texts, IMs, PMs, VMs, notes on LinkedIn, and panicked office visits. No one writes me a letter. Might be kinda cool to get one of those one day. Envelope. Stamp. Delivered by Postman Pete….
Anyway, as I said, I get lots of correspondence from my students. In a given semester I’ll have 3500-4000 students, so that’s a LOT of correspondence. Not surprisingly, most of it comes at the end of the semester and most of that is some form of, “I missed a deadline because…” Didn’t know the final ended at 5. I couldn’t get my forms in at the last minute. Webcourses did it to me. My car broke down on the way to drop that off. My girlfriend got lost…
People choose to move the week before finals. They get new significant sweeties. They break up with a significant sweetie. They lose their jobs or their jobs get inexplicably busier. Their kids go crazy. Their girlfriends go crazy. Their wife goes crazy. Their wife AND girlfriend go crazy!
For my new students starting this week, I have this lesson. Performance is the product of three factors; Effort, Ability, and Role. To do well you have to try really hard, have the skills and abilities to know what to do really hard, and be focused on the correct hard things. That means to do well in a class you’ll need to go to class, take notes, read the materials, study, and invest both the time and effort required to develop a mastery of the subject matter. You’ll also need the cognitive ability to grasp the subject matter, make sense of it, comprehend the readings so you can ask good questions, and apply it to scenarios outside of the classroom. Finally…and this is the one most of my students mess up…you need to be focused on being a student. When those three circles align, you PERFORM! Unfortunately, the one that on paper seems the easiest to control is also the one most students mess up.
Students who know their Role and take it seriously will choose activities in my class that make sense. They will choose activities that will help them build a network, decide what they want to do, and build the skills and connections they’ll need to do that. The ones who don’t will chew up points without thinking about the nutritional value of the activity. Hungry? You can’t live on Snickers alone. Some who don’t seem to forget they’re taking classes and just focus their energy elsewhere. They don’t do ANY activity.
Most of my students work. And when I say most, I mean almost all. Some work a part time job. Some work multiple part time jobs. Some also have an internship in addition to that. Some work days, some work nights, some work weekends. Some work full time. Some have a spouse. Some have a significant sweetie. Some have families. Some just have babies. Some just have pets. All of my students have something going on other than school. Additionally, most of my students do their best to maintain some semblance of a personal life. They go out. They go on vacations. They go to concerts and sporting events. Who doesn’t like Sunday Funday??
So here’s your first dose of tough love. It’s not that I don’t care about all that stuff; it’s that I can’t. Not because I’m evil or uncaring. It’s because it’s my job. I teach a class. I’m not your boss. I’m not your sweetie. I’m not your Daddy. I’m not your baby-daddy. I’m not your doggie-baby-daddy. I’m your teacher and our relationship is predicated on one factor, your performance in my class. So, when you don’t perform, I go back to my three factors. Did you try hard? Are you smart enough? Are you focused on the good student things?
I won’t get into your effort or ability. That usually fleshes itself out on its own. I’m gonna be like your boss and say, “If you have time to lean, you got time to clean!” Most of my students will start their semester with the best intentions. They want to make As, work more hours, hit the gym, and fill that gap in their love life. Intentions that they think are a plan. Then, because intentions aren’t really a plan, when they get hit in the mouth by the Mike Tyson of life (not goofy-ass reality TV Mike, I mean old school had Michael Spinks putting his mouthpiece in his ear and blowing snot bubbles out his nose Mike Tyson!), they send me a panicked note as they flail around for sympathy. They point to me and ask, “Professor, what can you do?”
Look under that finger you’re pointing at me. There are three pointing back to the person who has to fix it. If you are going to be successful in UCFs College of Business, you need to take your role as student seriously. You may have been able to work full time and carry 4 classes before. Not now. I am only concerned with the time you put in as a student. Everything else is leaning. If you work, take fewer classes. If you work and have a family, take even fewer. If you work, have relationship issues, and live over an hour away, then go work that stuff out and come back when you’re ready to focus. Seriously, we build the buildings out of bricks for a reason.