“FRIENDLY advice” from lecturers often evokes humour because it is given with a smile or giggle, but it is essential for students to carefully analyse the lesson which needs to be learnt from these wise words.
At my very first lecture at Wits in 2008 my Sociology lecturer said, “I would like to welcome all 350 of you to Sociology 1015. Before we begin I would like you to do a simple task for me. You are an individual, and where you are seated, you are surrounded by four other individuals, one to your right, left, in front and behind you. Among the total of five individuals (you and four surrounding you) only two will stand on that graduation stage in 2011. Choose to be one of the two. Just friendly advice.”
For me the suggestion that 210 students from 350 would not graduate in record time was ludicrous. After three years, I now regard these words as the most eye-opening I ever heard at Wits.
Now, with less than a month to graduation, I realise that the lesson to be learnt from those words was, “Graduating is a choice made on day one as every student is solely responsible for his studies and the quality of choices he makes influence his academic progress.”
Choices such as submitting assignments on time, attending tutorials, thoroughly reading course material and consulting regularly are often seen by students as minor. For me these were the choices I constantly had to make in order to ensure that I become “one of the two”. Truthfully, how difficult is it really to make these choices?
It becomes harder to prioritise on academic work when students are unable to turn down a good time out with friends. Many of my “beer garden friends” from first year are not “one of the two” and it is not because I am smarter than they are, but rather that I put my academic work before many other things, even friendship.