Unit 2: Time, Tools, and Study Environment

Christopher L. Hockey

INTERDEPENDENCE

When we explore relationships between people and groups of people, interdependence may well be one of the most meaningful words in the English language. It’s meaningful because it speaks to the importance of connecting with others and maintaining viable relationships. Interdependence is defined as the mutual reliance, or mutual dependence, between two or more people or groups. “In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically, and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other.”
An interdependent relationship is different from dependent and codependent relationships, though. In dependent relationships, some members are dependent while some are not (dependent people believe that they may not be able to achieve goals on their own). In codependent relationships, there is a sense that one must help others achieve their goals before pursuing one’s own. Contrast these relationships with interdependent relationships, in which the dependency, support, and gain is shared for the enrichment of all.

INTERDEPENDENCE IN COLLEGE

Interdependence is valuable in college because it contributes to your success as a student. When you feel comfortable with interdependence, for example, you may be more likely to ask a friend to help you with a class project. You may also be more likely to offer that same help to someone else. You may be more inclined to visit a faculty member during office hours. You may be more likely to attend the tutoring center for help with a difficult subject. Perhaps you would visit the career center.
Overall, when you have a sense of interdependence, you cultivate support networks for yourself, and you help others, too. Interdependence is a win-win relationship.

FORM DEEP AND LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

When you socialize regularly in college, you tend to develop deep and lasting relationships. Even if some of the connections are shorter term, they can support you in different ways. Maybe a college friend in your same major is interested in starting a business with you. Or, maybe a roommate helps you find a job. With a foundation of caring and concern, you are bound to find that your interdependent relationships fulfill you and others. It is unlikely that students without interdependent relationships will experience these kinds of benefits.

DEVELOP GOOD STUDY HABITS

Study habits vary from student to student, but you can usually tell when studying and social life are at odds. Creative, organized students can combine studying and socializing for maximum advantage. You might join a peer study group for a subject that you find difficult or even for a subject that you excel in. Either way, you and others gain from this relationship. There is mutual support not only for studying but for building social connections.

MINIMIZE STRESS

When you feel stressed, what are your “go-to” behaviors? It can be hard to reach out to others during times of stress, but socializing can be a great stress reliever. When you connect with others, you may find that life is a little easier and burdens can be shared and lightened. Helping is mutual. The key is to balance social activities with responsibilities.

SHARE INTERESTS

In college, there are opportunities not only to explore a wide spectrum of interests but also to share them. In the process of exploring and developing your personal interests, you may join a club or perhaps work in a campus location that fits your interests. By connecting with others in a context of shared interests, everyone stands to gain because you expand knowledge and experience through social interaction.

SOCIAL CONFLICT SITUATIONS AND RESOLUTION STRATEGIES

Now that you know more about communication strategies for interacting in college, you may find it helpful to identify common situations that can evoke anxiety or social problems and conflict.

ACADEMIC PROBLEMS
When you’re in college, it’s not unusual to hit a rough patch and find yourself struggling academically, and such challenges can have an impact on your social life. If you may find yourself in this situation—and especially if it includes other stressors, such as employment difficulties, responsibilities for family member, or financial problems—you may benefit from slowing down and getting help. Your college or university has support systems in place to help you. Take advantage of resources such as the tutoring center, counseling center, and academic advisers to help you restore your social life to a balanced state.

TOO MUCH SOCIAL NETWORKING
It’s pretty obvious that social media is an integral part of the social landscape in college. From tweeting about a football game, to posting an album on Facebook about your spring break, to beefing up your LinkedIn profile before a job hunt, to Instagramming pictures of party hijinks, social networking is everywhere in college and it’s likely to say. The following video gives an insider look at why college students use social media. Despite the many benefits, as you know, social networking can be a major distraction. If social networking is getting in the way of any part of your college success—whether it’s social or academic success—take a break and disconnect for a while.
Here are ten reasons why you may wish to step away from social media, at least temporarily: When it’s Time to Unplug—10 Reasons Why Too Much Social Media Is Bad for You

COMMUNICATING WITH PROFESSORS

So far we’ve been looking at class participation and general interaction with both instructors and other students in class. In addition to this, students gain very specific benefits from communicating directly with their instructors. Learn best practices for communicating with your instructors during office hours and through e-mail.

ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF TALKING WITH YOUR INSTRUCTORS
College students are sometimes surprised to discover that instructors like students and enjoy getting to know them. After all, they want to feel they’re doing something more meaningful than talking to an empty room. The human dimension of college really matters, and as a student you are an important part of your instructor’s world. Most instructors are happy to see you during their office hours or to talk a few minutes after class.
This chapter has repeatedly emphasized how active participation in learning is a key to student success. In addition, talking with your instructors often leads to benefits beyond simply doing well in that class.

● Talking with instructors helps you feel more comfortable in college and more connected to the campus. Students who talk to their instructors are less likely to become disillusioned and drop out.
● Talking with instructors is a valuable way to learn about an academic field or a career. Don’t know for sure what you want to major in, or what people with a degree in your chosen major actually do after college? Most instructors will share information and insights with you.
● You may need a reference or letter of recommendation for a job or internship application. Getting to know some of your instructors puts you in an ideal position to ask for a letter of recommendation or a reference in the future when you need one.
● Because instructors are often well connected within their field, they may know of a job, internship, or research possibility you otherwise may not learn about. An instructor who knows you is a valuable part of your network. Networking is very important for future job searches and other opportunities. In fact, most jobs are found through networking, not through classified ads or online job postings.
● Think about what it truly means to be “educated”: how one thinks, understands society and the world, and responds to problems and new situations. Much of this learning occurs outside the classroom. Talking with your highly educated instructors can be among your most meaningful experiences in college.

GUIDELINES FOR COMMUNICATING WITH INSTRUCTORS
Getting along with instructors and communicating well begins with attitude. As experts in their field, they deserve your respect. Remember that a college education is a collaborative process that works best when students and instructors communicate freely in an exchange of ideas, information, and perspectives. So while you should respect your instructors, you shouldn’t fear them. As you get to know them better, you’ll learn their personalities and find appropriate ways to communicate. Here are some guidelines for getting along with and communicating with your instructors:

  • Prepare before going to the instructor’s office. Go over your notes on readings and lectures and write down your specific questions. You’ll feel more comfortable, and the instructor will appreciate your being organized.
  • Don’t forget to introduce yourself. Especially near the beginning of the term, don’t assume your instructor has learned everyone’s names yet and don’t make him or her have to ask you. Unless the instructor has already asked you to address him or her as “Dr. ,” “Ms. ” or Mr. ,” or something similar, it’s appropriate to say “Professor .”
  • Respect the instructor’s time. In addition to teaching, college instructors sit on committees, do research and other professional work, and have personal lives. Don’t show up two minutes before the end of an office hour and expect the instructor to stay late to talk with you.
  • Realize that the instructor will recognize you from class—even in a large lecture hall. If you spent a lecture class joking around with friends in the back row, don’t think you can show up during office hours to find out what you missed while you weren’t paying attention.
  • Don’t try to fool an instructor. Insincere praise or making excuses for not doing an assignment won’t make it in college. Nor is it a good idea to show you’re “too cool” to take all this seriously—another attitude sure to turn off an instructor. To earn your instructor’s respect, come to class prepared, do the work, participate genuinely in class, and show respect—and the instructor will be happy to see you when you come to office hours or need some extra help.
  • Try to see things from the instructor’s point of view. Imagine that you spent a couple hours making PowerPoint slides and preparing a class lecture on something you find very stimulating and exciting. Standing in front of a full room, you are gratified to see faces smiling and heads nodding as people understand what you’re saying—they really get it! And then a student after class asks, “Is this going to be on the test?” How would you feel?
  • Be professional when talking to an instructor. You can be cordial and friendly, but keep it professional and on an adult level. Come to office hours prepared with your questions—not just to chat or joke around. (Don’t wear sunglasses or earphones in the office or check your cell phone for messages.) Be prepared to accept criticism in a professional way, without taking it personally or complaining.
  • Use your best communication skills.

E-MAIL BEST PRACTICES

Just as e-mail has become a primary form of communication in business and society, e-mail has a growing role in education and has become an important and valuable means of communicating with instructors. Virtually all younger college students have grown up using e-mail and have a computer or computer access in college, although some have developed poor habits from using e-mail principally with friends in the past. Some older college students may not yet understand the importance of e- mail and other computer skills in college; if you are not now using e-mail, it’s time to learn how. Especially when it is difficult to see an instructor in person during office hours, e-mail can be an effective form of communication and interaction with instructors. E-mail is also an increasingly effective way to collaborate with other students on group projects or while studying with other students.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

GETTING STARTED WITH E-MAIL

  • If you don’t have your own computer, find out where on-campus computers are available for student use, such as at the campus library or your local public library.
  • Many students have a gmail or hotmail account they use for personal communications. As a college student you will be provided with an email account hosted by the college. This is the email you should use to communicate with your faculty. Other email accounts may be blocked as SPAM. You can go in and personalize your email account and forward items to your other accounts.
  • If you don’t have enough computer experience to know how to do this, ask a friend for help getting started or check at your library or student services office for a publication explaining how e-mail works.
  • Once you have your account set up, give your e-mail address to instructors who request it and to other students with whom you study or maintain contact. E-mail is a good way to contact another student if you miss a class.
  • Once you begin using e-mail, remember to check it regularly for messages. Most people view e- mail like a telephone message and expect you to respond fairly soon.
  • Be sure to use good e-mail etiquette when writing to instructors.
  • If your instructor gives you his or her e-mail addresses, use e-mail rather than the telephone for non-urgent matters. Using e-mail respects other people’s time, allowing them to answer at a time of their choosing, rather than being interrupted by a telephone call.

E-mail is a written form of communication that is different from telephone voice messages and text messages. Students who text with friends have often adopted shortcuts, such as not spelling out full words, ignoring capitalization and punctuation, and not bothering with grammar or full sentence constructions. This is inappropriate in an e-mail message to an instructor, who expects a more professional quality of writing. Most instructors expect your communications to be in full sentences with correctly spelled words and reasonable grammar.

Follow these guidelines:

  • Use a professional e-mail name. If you have a funny name you use with friends, create a different account with a professional name you use with instructors, work supervisors, and others.
  • Use the subject line to label your message effectively at a glance. “May I make an appointment?” says something; “In your office?” doesn’t.
  • Address e-mail messages as you do a letter, beginning with, “Dear Professor .” Include your full name if it’s not easily recognizable in your e-mail account.
  • Get to your point quickly and concisely. Don’t make the reader scroll down a long e-mail to see what it is you want to say.
  • Because e-mail is a written communication, it does not express emotion the way a voice message does. Don’t attempt to be funny, ironic, or sarcastic, Write as you would in a paper for class. In a large lecture class or an online course, your e-mail voice may be the primary way your instructor knows you, and emotionally charged messages can be confusing or give a poor impression.
  • Don’t use capital letters to emphasize. All caps look like SHOUTING.
  • Avoid abbreviations, nonstandard spelling, slang, and emoticons like smiley faces. These do not convey a professional tone.
  • Don’t make demands or state expectations such as “I’ll expect to hear from you soon” or “If I haven’t heard by 4 p.m., I’ll assume you’ll accept my paper late.”
  • When you reply to a message, leave the original message within yours. Your reader may need to recall what he or she said in the original message.
  • Be polite. End the message with a “Thank you” or something similar.
  • Proofread your message before sending it.
  • With any important message to a work supervisor or instructor, it’s a good idea to wait and review the message later before sending it. You may have expressed an emotion or thought that you will think better about later. Many problems have resulted when people sent messages too quickly without thinking.

RESOLVING A PROBLEM WITH AN INSTRUCTOR

The most common issue students feel with an instructor involves receiving a grade lower than they think they deserve—especially new students not yet used to the higher standards of college. It’s depressing to get a low grade, but it’s not the end of the world. Don’t be too hard on yourself—or on the instructor. Take a good look at what happened on the test or paper and make sure you know what to do better next time. Review the earlier chapters on studying habits, time management, and taking tests.
If you genuinely believe you deserved a higher grade, you can talk with your instructor. How you communicate in that conversation, however, is very important. Instructors are used to hearing students complain about grades and patiently explaining their standards for grading. Most instructors seldom change grades. Yet it can still be worthwhile to talk with the instructor because of what you will learn from the experience.
Follow these guidelines to talk about a grade or resolve any other problem or disagreement with an instructor:

  • First go over the requirements for the paper or test and the instructor’s comments. Be sure you actually have a reason for discussing the grade—not just that you didn’t do well. Be prepared with specific points you want to go over.
  • Make an appointment with your instructor during office hours or another time. Don’t try to talk about this before or after class or with e-mail or the telephone.
  • Begin by politely explaining that you thought you did better on the assignment or test (not simply that you think you deserve a better grade) and that you’d like to go over it to better understand the result.
  • Allow the instructor to explain his or her comments on the assignment or grading of the test. Don’t complain or whine; instead, show your appreciation for the explanation. Raise any specific questions or make comments at this time. For example, you might say, “I really thought I was being clear here when I wrote.…”
  • Use good listening skills. Whatever you do, don’t argue!
  • Ask what you can do to improve your grade, if possible. Can you rewrite the paper or do any extra-credit work to help make up for a test score? While you are showing that you would like to earn a higher grade in the course, also make it clear that you’re willing to put in the effort and that you want to learn more, not just get the higher grade.
  • If there is no opportunity to improve on this specific project, ask the instructor for advice on what you might do on the next assignment or when preparing for the next test. You may be offered some individual help or receive good study advice, and your instructor will respect your willingness to make the effort as long as it’s clear that you’re more interested in learning than simply getting the grade.

 

TIPS FOR SUCCESS: TALKING WITH INSTRUCTORS

When you have a question, ask it sooner rather than later.

  • Be prepared and plan your questions and comments in advance.
  • Be respectful but personable and communicate professionally.
  • Be open minded and ready to learn. Avoid whining and complaining.
  • There is no such thing as a “stupid question.”

 

 

Photo by Shubham Sharan on Unsplash

CONTROLLING ANGER OVER GRADES

If you’re going to talk with an instructor about your grade or any other problem, control any anger you may be feeling. Here are a few tips to help you control your anger before you do or say something that you might later regret:

  • Being upset about a grade is good because it shows you care and that you have passion about your education. But anger prevents clear thinking, so rein it in first.
  • Since anger involves bodily reactions, physical actions can help you control anger: try some deep breathing first.
  • Try putting yourself in your instructor’s shoes and seeing the situation from their point of view. Try to understand how grading is not a personal issue of “liking” you—that they are really doing something for your educational benefit.
  • It’s not your life that’s being graded. Things outside your control can result in not doing well on a test or assignment, but the instructor can grade only on what you actually did on that test or assignment—not what you could have done or are capable of doing. Understanding this can help you accept what happened and not take a grade personally.

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Blueprint for Success in College and Career Copyright © 2019 by Christopher L. Hockey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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