Lessons to Learn from Students Who Have Gone Before You (some lessons for AP Language and some for Life)



  • When referencing an author or speaker, please use their last name. For example, if you are talking about Dr. Martin Luther King, refer to him as “King” or “Dr. King” or “MLK.”  He is not “Martin” to you, and it is your responsibility to treat that person with respect.  Using their last name and/or their earned title is a way to do that.
  • If, when reading through your writing with another person, you have to say, “What I mean is…,” you have not written clearly. Say what you mean and don’t make your reader do the work.
  • Punctuation, spelling and capitalization matter. If you haven’t mastered these skills – for whatever reason – take it upon yourself to improve.  Only you can learn what you need to learn.
  • Just because you say something doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make it false, either, but you need to be able to back up what you say and think.  Believe it or not, you will eventually run into others who hold as strong (or stronger) opinions as you, and they will be able to defend their thinking and beliefs.  Be prepared to stand your ground and give thoughtful justification and explanations for your views.
  • If you can communicate effectively, you can do anything. You can persuade, lead, motivate, rebuke, sell, manage, report, defend, praise and express.  If you can’t communicate, you have sentenced yourself to a solitary prison in which you must wonder if anyone else even understands what you are thinking or what you desire.  That’s sad, lonely and frustrating.  Learn to communicate.
  • Come to class. Absence make-ups are all well and good for the record-keeping aspect of attendance.  But sitting in the cafeteria or returning books to the book room cannot replace the time spent in class with your educated and professional instructor who not only teaches the content but also adds finesse and the “between the lines” learning that deepen student understanding of complex ideas.
  • Don’t cheat. Yeah, your grade might be improved if you don’t get caught.  But if you DO get caught?  Not only will your grade suffer, but you have damaged your reputation, and it takes a whole lot more effort to attempt to repair what others think of you rather than simply doing the right thing.  And furthermore, even if you don’t get caught, and your grade is elevated – that grade is a lie.
  • Teachers don’t “grade” papers. They “score” them.  We don’t ASSIGN grades, we merely write down what the student has earned.   While some grades could be considered “subjective,” most are based on a rubric which eliminates as much “subjectivity” as much as possible.
  • Do your work on time. In addition to simply building the habit of a solid work ethic, it is incredibly selfish and inconsiderate to turn in work late and expect not only your teachers to stop what they are doing and go back to that assignment to score it after everyone else’s has been scored, but it is an insult to your classmates who also have obligations, responsibilities and extracurricular activities and still managed to get their work done on time.  Additionally, many assignments cannot be handed back until they are all in.  You are preventing others from getting timely feedback by delaying the completion of the assignment cycle.
  • Put your damn phone down. Believe it or not, there was a time when students didn’t have the internet at their fingertips and couldn’t text or chat or send pictures with the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger across a screen.  And no one died. And no one lost friends.  And no one’s world crashed in.  You are missing the world around you because you are so focused on that tiny screen that you are missing “life.”  “Life” is what is happening around you, in front of you and to you.  But you’re missing it because you can’t take your eyes and mind off that “idiot box.”
  • Be respectful. You are not going to like every teacher.  That’s okay.  Guess what.  You’re not going to like every boss, every co-worker, every flight attendant, auto-mechanic, restaurant server, nurse, or physician (although I highly recommend you have a doctor you like.  As you get older, you’ll spend more time with them.)  Being respectful does not mean you agree with or even like the other person.  It simply means that you are a decent human being who recognizes that it takes all kinds to make up the world, and your attitude is not determined by someone else’s.
  • People make mistakes.
  • You don’t have to say everything you are thinking.
  • Ask yourself, “Will this be cute in 5 years?”  If not, reconsider.
  • It’s okay to be a jerk sometimes, but be careful about being a jerk on social media.  It will ALWAYS come back to haunt you.
  • Aside from it being a good academic skill, it’s an incredible life skill.  If you don’t know how to read and analyze and think, you will wind up paying other people a lot of money to do it for you.  You will be able to meet people and travel places that time, money or technology can’t offer you.  Reading makes you a better person.   Prove me wrong.

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