To My Students:
We have a professional relationship. Our communication gives you practice in the etiquette you will (and perhaps already do) follow in the workplace. Earlier in your education, your teachers may have seemed to you like parents or camp counselors. Thinking of your college professors this way will lead to frustration and disappointment. Think of me as a boss; and when it comes to your grades, think of me as a banker who keeps track of your earnings. I think of you as competent adults who accept my authority and have chosen to take on the challenges of my course. I hope that many of you share my interest in language and literature, but your effort and attention matter more to me than your natural talent.
Like most professors at Santa Monica College, I teach more than 300 students per academic year, which means that you must take the initiative if you would like to have more individualized attention from me. The best way to make this happen is to come see me during my office hours or by appointment. During those meetings, I am happy to help you work on drafts of essays or clarify concepts from class lectures. I thoroughly enjoy working with students who are motivated, responsible, and curious.
Unless you are a student in one of my online classes, I ask you to limit your emails to me to brief business matters, such as informing me that you are sick and will be missing class. Please do not email me complaints about your grade unless you see an error in the online gradebook. In grading formal essays, I use the SMC English Department Grading Rubric, so you can appeal to the chair of the English Department if you doubt that I have properly judged your work by these standards. If you have any doubts about my professionalism or the accuracy of my grade calculations, you may contact the campus Ombudsperson if our discussion about the matter does not satisfy you.
I know there are tremendous performance pressures on students these days. The recent documentary "Race to Nowhere" explores this problem. But if you want me to like and respect you, act as if learning is more important to you than your grades. If it scares you to think of your future career not going as you (or those supporting you) have planned, I recommend that you read William Zinsser's classic essay "The Right to Fail." I see you as a person, not a GPA. Even if you don't pass my course because you came in with weak English skills or because you are distracted by problems at work or in your family, I believe you will receive lasting value from any honest effort you make to learn.
If you are struggling in my course and become tempted to hire a private tutor or to buy online tutoring services: Beware! Make sure you understand the dangers of plagiarism, which can cause you great harm even if you plagiarize unintentionally. Good tutors will help you build your skills for the long term, not just improve your grades in the short term.
My purpose is to offer you knowledge and skills that will serve you later in life. Knowing how to read, write, argue a point, and savor a story will do much more for you than just advance your career; these will enrich the quality of your whole life. In the short term, you will earn a grade in my course, and you might come back later and ask me for a letter of recommendation, which I will gladly write for students who applied themselves in my course--regardless of their final course grade. In the long term, your learning will be manifest in a multitude of ways in both your professional and your personal lives. Having completed a general education at the college level, you will have sophistication and confidence that will reward you in expected and unexpected ways.
I share my philosophy with you so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to take my course. The beauty of college is that you are here by choice, and the choices are all up to you. If you choose to learn from me and then express something that makes me doubt that you understood this letter, I will reply by asking you to read it again.
Dr. Dana Del George