Freshman, you and I had something in common last year.
We were both new to our respective roles in academia. I'm about to see the new crop of your kind at Columbus State University next week, so I'd love to share three points of observation from Year One.
First, your professor -- like you -- is a human being. She is not a robot, void of emotion. She is not perfect. She does not know everything. In fact, she is inevitably going to learn something from you and your peers this fall.
Why mention this seemingly obvious fact? Because most of you avoid your professors like the plague. You show up, take notes and scurry out as soon as class is dismissed. This is a loss for both parties, especially when you come running in the eleventh hour, panicked about your grade and understanding of the material.
Never miss a local story.
All CSU professors hold regular office hours, but I ended up spending nearly all of mine alone last year. I'm not keen on mandating private check-ins with students, because that opposes the spirit of office hours. Try to see your professor as a mentor and future peer. Let that encourage you to speak regularly with her about what you're learning, why it's confusing or fabulous or lame, and how you can engage it in a way that serves you better.
Second, please understand that the first drafts of your written assignments need a lot of work. First drafts are called "first" for that very reason. Don't take it personally. Also, take the time to proofread your work. Use spell and grammar check when typing up assignments. I was most appalled last year by the rampant typos and grammatical errors in papers, as if we were still living in the age of the typewriter and students were writing blindfolded. Microsoft Word practically does the work for you! Just take the time to read it over and refine it before sending it in.
Finally, you are brilliant. I'm serious. Maybe at some point someone told you otherwise, but it's evident and unique in each of you. Believe it and let it show in class. Speak up and speak out.
When you're asked what you think about certain reading material, understand that the question asks for your opinion. There is no right or wrong answer, so don't allow fear to keep you from speaking your mind. Simply share your thoughts and be prepared to explain why you think them, if asked further.
One of my favorite parts about teaching plays has been the myriad of interpretations that students bring into discussion.
For example, I loved when a student found similarities in the attention-seeking nature of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" and the character of Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" The parallels would never once have crossed my mind, but there was something useful to be drawn from it, believe it or not.
And with that, freshman, good luck and have fun this semester! See you on campus.
-- Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent correspondent. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cafeaulazy.