This means that you hand in your assignments on time. Not a day late; not an hour late; not after class if they’re due in class. On time. If your professor says no hats in class or no chewing gum, remove your hat and your gum before coming to class. If your professor holds office hours only on Mondays from 2 to 4 p.m., go on Mondays from 2 to 4; he or she won’t be there on Tuesdays. If your professor wants your papers typed, get them typed. If your professor wants your report on green paper, do it on green paper. One more time: your goal is to keep the professor happy.
Let me give you some insight into the professorial mind. Most professors love teaching. They really do. (They may not be good at it, but most do enjoy it.) But many professors, if not most, hate correcting papers and exams. We have to correct them; it’s part of our job. We do it at home, at night and on weekends, when we’d really rather be doing almost anything else, like working in the garden, playing with our kids, surfing the net, reading a mystery novel, playing tennis, watching TV. Hell, I’d rather watch Barney than correct papers and exams. In other words, at best it is not a task we come to with a light heart.
When we ask you to type your papers, to set them up in certain ways, to use certain formats, whatever — it’s often to make them easier for us to correct. Picture this: your professor has a stack of 60 papers to read and one of them — against the professor’s rules — is handwritten. It sticks out like an elephant at a tennis match. The professor thinks, “Everyone else in the class managed to follow the rules except for this one idiot.” The professor is not happy. The professor is not going to be happy when he or she grades this paper. Do you want to be the one idiot the professor is steamed at? Bad idea. Keep the professor happy. Or, as I put it before, don’t draw negative attention to yourself.
When you follow the rules, it makes your life easier — for example, no lowered grades because of missed deadlines — and it makes your professor’s life easier. Easier means unhassled. Unhassled professors mean unhassled students.
Think about professors this way: they were undergraduates once. They know all the student tricks and excuses, because they’ve been teaching for a while — and because they used them themselves. Here’s what it means: you can’t get away with much, and you don’t fool them for long. Moreover, professors are usually highly dedicated to their work. They’ve had to be; it takes as much time and effort to become a professor as it does to become a physician. Consequently, they respect students who demonstrate diligence, reliability, intelligence, hard work, and good sense. In other words, students who give it their best effort.