The semester has ended, final grades are in, and most students and teachers have successfully traveled (if they are traveling) to their holiday destinations. This does not prevent, however, a steady stream of e-mails and questions like “Why do I have such a low grade in this course” from flooding my inbox. While there are no “stupid questions” (as it is often said) there are questions that you could have answered yourself. So, from the instructor, here’s a tip to making sure the question you ask doesn’t make you look incompetent in the first place.
Step #1: Read the syllabus. If you never read the syllabus in the first place it would be a good time to do that now. If you’ve already read it once go ahead and re-read it to make sure that the answer you seek is not contained in that document handed out on the first day of class. When I get questions like “shouldn’t I have an ‘A’ in this class,” followed by an inaccurate evaluation of the total points in the course I know, as a teacher, that you didn’t re-look at the syllabus and that you haven’t been paying attention to the point values of assessments along the way. So, re-read the syllabus.
Step #2: Look at your grades. While it is a little late to be looking at grades for individual assignments after the final grades have been posted it is better to start late than never. If I receive an e-mail that says, “I don’t know why I did so poorly in this course, I turned everything in and did really good on all of it” I am willing to take you at your word until I actually look at this information. If I see that you failed to turn in half of the assignments for the class and failed the midterm exam you have just put two questions in my head: 1) Are they a liar? 2) Did they never look at their grades until now?
As you can see, both of these issues are fairly easily resolved with a quick check to documents you should already have in your possession. Here’s a secret: Teachers want their students to succeed. However, when you don’t succeed, please don’t make your failure justified by not doing your homework one final time and asking a question that could have easily been answered without contacting the instructor. Q: Why did I fail? A: Because of me. … if this is you then learn your lesson and do better next time. A little preparation goes a long way towards success.