FAQ #1: "So, how do I make an A in this class?"

Here are some surprising examples from my classes last semester. Look at how far these students came!

• The student who made only Fs for her first quizzes and essays and who wrote the most ungrammatical, convoluted sentences I’d seen in years. She went to The Writing Center; she used the online exercises for the Bedford Handbook; she e-mailed me if she still didn’t get it. She learned to write clear, grammatical sentences; she excelled at organization and development of her essay.
• The student who read anything she could get her hands on. She began as a solid B, mainly because her grammar and usage weren’t perfect. She did the assigned exercises carefully and learned from them. She became the Peer Editor everyone in the class wanted for his/her peer editor. Her writing was outstanding in terms of content and clarity; she wrote with a distinct voice.
• The student who arrived in the United States for the first time only six weeks before class started. His early work earned Fs and Ds mainly because he was still thinking in his native language and translating; he had overwhelming English-as-a-Second-Language issues–his native language used a different alphabet from English, for one thing. He did as much work as Student #1. I would also see him, on quiz days, before class, reviewing and reviewing the assignment. When he was unsure of an assignment, he was too shy to ask in class, so he usually e-mailed me or asked for an appointment. He always prepared for the appointment with specific questions; he never wasted my time or his. (By the way, he worked 40+ hours weekly, often having to travel 50 miles each way to do so.)