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A+ Grade on Homework


I’m stepping out of bounds and writing a controversial post. Some people might disagree with it or find it morally objectionable, but I’m writing about how to get good grades and this system works.

In school you are taught that we live in a meritocratic society. We are taught that those that are the best are rewarded the most. This is a lie.

In high school and even college some students get away with mastering the meritocratic system. If you want to be the student that goes above and beyond and read all of Shakespeare’s works even though you were only assigned Hamlet, be my guest.  You are a natural student, and you will likely be rewarded in an academic setting.

But if you are not the kind of student inclined to do that, you can still get straight A’s. You just have to approach the process from a different angle.

Human emotion is a much more powerful force than logic and reason. And even in a school setting, this rule still applies.

Your grades are given by teachers. Teachers have emotions. Convince your teacher to like you, and you may be better off than getting 100% on the last quiz.

Do you have to get 100% on the quiz to get your teacher to like you? Absolutely not. Teachers are human, and if you treat them as such, you may build a real relationship that can help in more ways than scoring a perfect score ever would.

I was not the kind of student that was standout smart. I was a good student. I did my work, participated in class, and I read the books we were assigned. Academically, I was above average but not necessarily the best.

But I’m the only student from my class that went to Harvard.

I knew how to cultivate relationships with my teachers. It actually isn’t that hard to do.

Get to Know Teachers Personally

The more one-on-one time you have with your teachers, the easier it will be to build a personal relationship. Set up a meeting under the pretext of going over questions you had from a previous test or to discuss something you were “confused by” in the reading.  Do this as early in the school year as you can because early on, teachers are still getting to know everyone and you can fast become a trusted student.

During the meeting, talk about the quiz questions or the reading, but eventually, try to talk to them about something else.  By the second or third meeting it will be easy to find things to talk about, but on your first try, here are some easy questions to ask:

  • What is your favorite part of teaching this subject?
  • How well do you feel our class is mastering the material? How do we compare to your other classes?
  • What kind of study techniques did you use?
  • Did you study this field in college? What was that like?
  • How did you choose a college?

Your goal is to convince them that you have an interest in them and in their class. Before you leave, make sure to thank them for their time and tell them how much you appreciate their help. Teachers often feel underappreciated, and it is a rare student who tells them thank you so when you do, your odds of being liked are much higher.

Maintain Eye Contact

When my teachers lectured us in class, I always focused on looking straight into their eyes. Most students will not make eye contact while their teachers are lecturing. They will either write in their notebooks, fall asleep, or gaze at the clock (or off into space).

I was amazed that when I looked straight into a lecturing teacher’s eyes, they looked straight back at me. It got to the point where about 80% of all lectures felt like they were directed at me personally. My teachers told me I was the most engaged student in class even when I didn’t say a word.

 Express Your Confusion

Are you someone who is afraid that you will be called on and not know the answer? I encourage you to change your thinking; confusion is the best. Teachers love teaching (or at least they should theoretically). When you express your confusion, you are expressing your desire to learn.

Next time, instead of waiting to be called out every time you are confused, raise your hand and ask a question as soon as you get lost. A good teacher will see you not only as a passionate student but also brave for asking a question in front of the class. You will also get points for class participation just for asking a question. Being confused is a win-win scenario.

Tell Them When You’re Overwhelmed

Some teachers will tell you that there are never any excuses for not being able to finish a paper or homework assignment on time. In practice, however, most of these statements a scare tactic.

There were days when I had two papers and a test due on the same day. Getting them all done and done well by the deadline felt impossible. Most of the time, if I calmly laid out the situation to one of my teachers, they either: 1) Gave me an extension; 2) Helped me plan out a schedule for completely the work (which was useful); or 3) Sympathized with me and my impending lack of sleep. Even if the only result I got was their sympathy, it was these conversations that helped solidify my relationship with my teachers, which paid off later on.

Don’t Just Accept a Bad Grade

You never want to be belligerent or argumentative about your grades. If you fight over grades with your teacher, you are likely to damage your relationship and give them justification for standing their ground.

However, if you do get a bad grade on a test or paper (and very few students graduate from high school without one of these instances), set up a one-on-one meeting to discuss it immediately.

Tell them how disappointed you are in yourself and how confused you are about your performance given how much you studied. Go over all of the questions with them and talk through each one in detail. Ask questions and share any knowledge you have that perhaps you didn’t write down. In a few instances, I’ve had teachers give me points just by sharing some knowledge in these conversations even if I didn’t write it down on the test.

Then, ask them for general study or writing tips that will help you improve in the future. Be engaged in the conversation and take notes on the conversation if you need to.

There are so many benefits to asking these questions. You will learn how your teacher thinks. The next time you have a test, quiz, or essay you will know exactly what you need to do to get the grade you want. Also, you will show that you are a committed student trying everything you can to improve. Finally, you will make your teachers feel like you value their advice, and they will probably walk away from the conversation liking you more.

Don’t Be the Best Student

Be the most liked student.

We are a society that roots for the underdogs. A polite, engaged, and motivated student is going to end up better off than the one that just seems “naturally smart” and gets perfect grades on each test without making it look like he’s trying. If you can make yourself well-liked, your teachers will not only want to give you good grades, but they will also want to write you glowing college recommendations, spread the word about how great you are to all the other teachers in the teacher’s lounge, and nominate you for prizes and scholarships. Plus, they will feel like you look to them as a mentor and that they are responsible for helping you succeed. They will cheer you on for the rest of your life.

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