(Originally Posted September 17, 2010)

This blog discusses:

Comics

Education

It’s the middle of September now, and I have started teaching art workshops again.

To soften the blow of celebrate the new school year, I have posted many of my old comics from high school and college. They are up in the Gallery section. They are a little rough, but worth a look.

The rest of this week’s blog it dedicated to the students in the hopes that I can make their new school year a little more bearable.

So, I have been thinking about those magazines that run “back to school survival guides” each September. Does any of that advice work? So I thought I’d try writing school survival tips. If you’ve read my blogs (or if you know me personally) then you remember that I am a certified Art Teacher. You students may be thinking that I am some uppity teacher, using this blog to preach at you. If so, I applaud your healthy sense of cynicism, but I would prefer that you think of me as someone who knows the secrets of the other camp, and can sneak them back to you. So lets get started, there will be a test at the end.

I’ve asked myself to narrow this down to one topic, the most important point that if I could get it across to my students it would not only make my life easier, but it would make all of their lives easier as well. My answer? How to ask for help in non-emergency situations.

To be honest, most of this stuff is common sense. I’m just going to point out WHY it’s common sense.

Has this ever happen to you: You are in class, trying to follow the lesson, when something goes wrong. You didn’t get a copy of the worksheet, or you can’t see the projector, or you got distracted by that cloud outside that looks vaguely like Patrick Stewart and lost your place (we’ve all been there). You’re stuck, so you raise your hand to ask for help. Your teacher doesn’t notice. Is your teacher ignoring you? You wave your hand and, maybe clear your throat. Maybe you call out your teacher’s name, only to get shushed or threatened. You are trying to be a good student and this teacher is being paid good mediocre money to help you learn so why is this jerk brushing you off?

Believe it or not, your teacher may have some reasons for letting you twist awhile. Read on while I unravel teacher logic.

Choose Your Words
My older sister had a saying “Ask for help in a way that makes people want to give it to you.” (Good advice for life and school). Good manners usually make people more responsive. Teachers need to take this a step further. They are expected to teach you social skills. So if you demand help by being rude, interrupt lessons, or push ahead of other students your teachers will usually refuse or ignore you. Even if they want to help, they’ll think they are rewarding bad habits.

One vs. Many
If your teachers are fair, then each student’s education should be equally important to them. So if your teachers have to choose between helping you or helping two other students, logic dictates your teacher should help the two students first.

So what happens when your teachers have to choose between helping you to learn and helping the entire rest of the class learn? (Hint: it ain’t gonna be you). For example, if your class is watching a video and you can’t see the screen from your chair, then you have the biggest problem. If you then stand up and start drowning out the video by shouting “ I CAN’T SEE IT! I CAN’T SEE IT!” then you are the biggest problem (and yes, this has happened in my class before). A minute ago, your teacher might have been concerned that one person wasn’t getting anything out of the lesson, but now he/she is too busy being concerned about the other 29 people who aren’t getting anything out of the lesson because you’re screaming. Be patient. Your teacher probably notices that you’re stuck, but can’t drop everyone else yet.

Do It Yourself
Try to fix things on your own. I get sick of having students ask me for markers, pencils, and stuff when they are less then ten feet away from and often labeled. If you make a habit of asking for help all the time, then your teachers will not always know the when you really need help and when you are just making trouble. Plus, if you are the kind of student who doesn’t want teachers hanging around you, keep this mind: asking teachers to do stuff for you just puts them in the habit of coming over to your work space.

There. Hopefully, this advice will help the new school year be marginally less painful. Work hard and become brighter, better people. And don’t forget that the simple secret to happiness and success is – Whoops, ran out of space. Maybe next year.

-Marj