Class for today: ass-kissing 101

There’s a little thing we in the newspaper business like to call “News You Can Use.” You know what I’m talking about—little slice-of-life things such as recipes and reminders to keep your tires properly inflated to improve gas mileage.

Well, here’s the college student version—we’ll call this Ass-kissing 101. It’s probably the class you’re most interested in, and as I observe, that thing you’re most interested in is simply getting a good grade.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in classes, watching students sleepwalk through the first five weeks, checking Facebook on their laptops and texting under the desk. They’re paying zero attention to what’s going on until that magic moment when the Esteemed Instructor finally says, “And now, I’m going to talk a bit about what will be on the midterm…”

And BAM. Eyelids snap open. The iPhone is stashed away. Spines go ramrod-straight. Notebooks are opened—maybe for the first time in the semester. Everyone is paying rapt attention. Not because they might want to, oh, I dunno, learn something. But rather, because they’ve heard the dinner bell, and Pavlov is laughing as they salivate. The end is not understanding for most students I’ve observed, but rather a quantifiable result that feeds their ravenous GPA.

My pessimistic gut feeling is that most students would rather get a good grade than actually learn anything. You can tell me if I’m right or wrong via the poll at the end of this article.

In the meantime, I’m just gonna assume that’s the case, and help you get a better grade. None of these tips will make it easier for you to differentiate an equation, memorize the periodic table of elements, or remember the capital of Paraguay (it’s Asunción). But follow this tried-and-true method, and you will move your grade up through the magic of ass-kissing.

Please. Feel free to clip-’n’-save. It’s news you can use.

Introduce yourself! It’s simple. Do it. Day One, maybe Day Two of class is good. Believe it or not, most college professors are human beings (though recent clinical trials show that as many as 2.9 percent are not). And human beings want a human connection. Give them that. Take 90 seconds at the end of class and say, “Hi, I’m Bob. Nice to meet you. My friend took this class a year ago and said it kicked ass. I’m looking forward to discussing the capital of Paraguay, which I believe is Asunción.” Put a face to the name. Make yourself a human being, and not a student ID number, and you’ve made it that much easier for some crusty ol’ prof to actually like you and move that B to a B+.

Books! This is the big one. What do academians love more than anything else? Probably proper footnoting in MLA style. But after that…it’s books. So scour the remainder table at Barnes & Noble and sink $6.99 in the investment of a proper ass-kissing book. But for the love of God, do NOT make the fatal mistake of getting them a book related directly to the class or their academic specialty. If you’re in Medieval European History 210 and you get them a book on Medieval European history, you just inadvertently told them there’s something more they should know about their subject. You just bared your fangs at the alpha dog, and there’s no way they’re gonna let you win that battle. Go one step deeper. In week two, when Prof. Crusty mentions how much he loves the song “Dear Prudence,” make a mental note. Then gift him that book on the Beatles.

Ask a question! Anything will do, really. Doesn’t even need to be a good question. But if you actually engage while Row 2, Seat 6 is busy texting his girlfriend, congrats—you just stood out from the crowd.

Shake hands on the way out! Leave them on a high note. Thank them. Tell them how much you enjoyed the class. Make their last memory of you a good one, and suddenly that final essay question can move from an A- to an A buoyed by the power of the warm and fuzzy. Plus, you never know when your paths will cross again. You always need more allies.

—Jim McLauchlin is 44 creaking years old and back in college, so really, what does he know?

Which outcome would you rather have after taking a course?

View Results

  • Desirée Rincón

    Jimbo: As always, a most excellent read.

    I took a course on Islamic Fundamentalism (as part of my Master’s in IR) with a crusty old 70-something-year-old professor that had a slew of wonderful stories to make the class significantly more interesting… it was a thoroughly enjoyable course and I learned that much more with the life experiences he shared with us.  We laughed, we asked questions, we brought up or own experiences (a good deal of us having been overseas ourselves).

    As a side note, the man had NEVER, in his whole life, worn a pair of jeans.  At the end of the class, we all put some bucks together and got him his first pair of jeans from Old Navy.  We all passed the course to boot.  True story.

  • AllTheWayFromMinnesota

    David… Who is ass kissing now?

  • AllTheWayFromMinnesota

    David… who is butt kissing McLauchlin’s ass now?  

  • David Blumenkrantz

    OK, I have the QR Reader App, but realized I would have had to write this with my thumbs, so I went to the old-fashioned website. First off, I’d read Jim McLauchlin’s grocery list because he’s always funny and astute and should probably be writing bits for the Daily Show or at least American Dad… but I’m writing to support his sentiments and general take on ass-kissing and longing we professor-types have for human connections, which we cannot get enough of from our colleagues or students. So yes, gifts are welcome. And now that I think about it, thanks again Jim for that great Springsteen t-shirt last semester. You did end up getting an A in the class, didn’t you….?

  • David Blumenkrantz

    good one

  • I agree, professors are HUMAN that means that most don’t like it when they can tell that you’re obviously ass kissing. I’m a senior: trust me.I’ve taken classes from the best department on campus (Psychology, my major of course muahahaha) to the absolute worst (Chemistry, if you don’t have Dr. Garrett or Curtis consider yourself unlucky bc that’s where the buck stops at enthusiastic professors that enjoy teaching). But back to ass kissing! I suggest that the student be genuine in approaching professors. Do too much and they can smell a rat, do nothing and remain student #34856900, do just enough and you will be well received. Try staying after class to chat the professor up a bit about something that intrigued you. You have to pay at least a little attention to these folks in order to kiss ass.I didn’t fair too bad by being a decent human being to my Prof’s lol 3.0 GPA