We completed our first week of school yesterday.

I always believe that this is an important juncture. Is the class going to fall into a lethargic mediocrity or begin to take off? We only have about 14 weeks. If we are going to have something great, we need to start building on that almost immediately. If you begin to lose student enthusiasm, you may never get it back.

So, this morning, I wrote my students a note to make sure they each understand what it takes to be good in my class. The goal is not to cram the night before the test. The goal is to understand the material today so that you can answer more questions tomorrow. I’m hoping they’ll buy into that as a goal worth taking seriously.

Here’s the note that I wrote to my students in Intermediate Accounting II.

“I thought we had an excellent first week. That’s what I want and that’s what I want every day and every week. Success is never earned by an occasional good day of work. I want you to be consistently excellent.

“I have three pieces of advice now that you have gotten a feel for this course.

“First, I hope you see that what we are doing every day is helping you to see how to think about and answer new situations, problems, and questions. In that way, when you get to each test, you will have already been trained in analyzing and answering questions. You should be ready for whatever I throw at you. To do this, it is essential that you spend an adequate amount of time preparing for class. If you are not spending 60-90 minutes preparing for every class, you are probably shooting for a C. That’s just a fact. Put a clock on it and see how much time you are devoting.

“Second, when I ask a question on Friday, I expect you to know what we did in class on the previous Wednesday. We are constantly adding to what we have learned so I have to make the assumption that you know what has been covered. When, I ask in class on Friday ‘how did we answer this type of question on Wednesday?’ and I get blank stares, that is not a good sign. That’s not what I want or expect. Therefore, after every class, spend 20-40 minutes going back over and organizing the material from the previous class. We’ll never get anywhere if we are constantly having to relearn the material.

“Third, you should always be looking for connections. Everything is tied together. I realize that this is different from what you are used to in school but you are bright folks and you are capable of making those connections. You are just a few months away from working in the real world. Consequently, you don’t need a ‘copy and memorize’ course. You need a ‘think about this and figure it out’ course. When we determine, ‘a loan is shown as a noncurrent liability if it has been refinanced (zero chance of paying a current asset) or if the company has obtained a noncancellable agreement to refinance (zero chance of paying a current asset)’ and then I ask ‘What is the precedent we can take from this rule so that we can use it when we are deciding whether any other liability should be reported as current or noncurrent?’ I believe you can make that connection and figure out the answer. The connection is there -- pointing the way for you.

“Okay, it’s easy to bail out and say ‘you haven’t told me so I don’t know.’ Baloney, you can figure it out.

“This is not an intro course. It is a very very very difficult course. However, I believe that every one of you folks has the ability to make an A. Why then do I usually have only 18-20 percent of the students earn A’s. That’s easy to answer: Most students do not spend 60-90 minutes preparing for EVERY class and 20-40 minutes reviewing after EVERY class. Therefore, they never really learn to analyze and make connections and answer questions. But that’s a talent truly worth having.

“I am not na├»ve. I do realize that this course can be hard. Your attitude toward that degree of challenge is important. It is easy to give up. But, to quote Tom Hanks: ‘It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.’

“It’s the hard that makes it great. I couldn’t have said that better myself.

“In fact, go watch Tom say those exact words:”

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