140611_lucas_dehnert_660If you tanked on a quiz or exam, if you’re not understanding the material, if you find yourself in any kind of bind in the course, the very first thing you should do is come and see me.

Don’t wait until the last two weeks of the term to start panicking about your performance in the class. Be proactive as soon as you start having problems, and take advantage of the fact that I have office hours every week (see the top of your syllabus), during which I am sitting just waiting to talk to students.

Try thinking of it like this: if you start feeling seriously ill, you go to see your doctor; if you wait too long, your condition will be harder to treat. Going sooner rather than later gives the doctor more time to diagnose your issue, and to offer you advice on how to address it. They might tell you to exercise more regularly, or to take your medications as directed, or to go see a specialist, etc. Assuming your doctor is a competent medical professional who is giving good advice, you should see your health improve.

I’m like that doctor, except I’m here to help you get a better grade. The longer you wait to come see me, the harder it will be for me to help you. The more time you give me to help your performance in the class, the better. I’m ready and more than happy to give you advice on time management skills, on how to read better, on how to take notes and take tests, on writing papers, on how to stay motivated and focused, the importance of reading exam questions and assignment instructions carefully, etc. There are also a lot of decent bits of advice on the web that will help you succeed in your classes, and these are worth looking at to see what will work for you (for example, here and here).


Patients who ignore good medical advice aren’t going to get better. And patients who know they are sick but wait until their health gets really bad before they bother to go see the doctor are obviously the hardest to heal.

It’s the same with any advice I give you as a student. If you listen carefully and faithfully follow my advice, come in for follow-ups, and budget enough time and effort to deal with your issues, you should see an improvement in your grade. But if you wait until your grade gets really bad before you come to see me, there will be less I can do to help you reverse course.

A good doctor is always wanting their patients to take care of their health, but ultimately this responsibility falls to each patient. And like a good doctor, I’m always rooting for my students to succeed in my classes. That being said, it’s your grade at stake, not mine, and I’ll only work as hard as you do—not one iota more. So if you find yourself in trouble in the course, come and see me sooner rather than later—okay? I can best help you if you come to see me right away. If you can’t make it to my office hours, drop me an email and we’ll set up an appointment.

© D. R. Koukal