Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Missives from the Obvious

During the first half of the semester I tend to send a few emails to the students in the calculus class who aren't doing well. Early in the semester I send out a few to the students whose homework averages are in the lowest 5% of the class. After the first exam, I email everyone whose total average is below a C.

I tell them things that are obvious. I tell them that if they want to pass this class with a C or better (as is required by some majors for this class to count towards the requirements), then they will need to get serious about the homework and studying for the exams. I remind them about the Math Help Center and that the TAs and I all have office hours.

Many of them write back. Most of them tell me that they are touched that I care how well they're doing.

Yes, that is right, if your students are like mine they will appreciate an email about the obvious.

The real secret here is that my class is not so much about teaching calculus (because we all know that few of them will ever need calculus again). It's really more about making sure they know how to do college before they make their way into more advanced courses. And if what you're doing isn't working for you (academically), then you probably could use some advice on something different to try.