Thursday, July 20, 2006

Your favorite syllabus points?

I recently realized that this will be my 7th year teaching, four at the same school. My all-purpose syllabus is about 5 pages, as every semester it grows with my pet peeves.

In reality, my biggest pet peeve are students who don't bother to read the damm thing in the first place. I decided last semester to give them a take-home quiz on my top 10 most important points. It was a much better semester -- which makes me realize that most of my students don't want to be bozo jackasses, they do it out of ignorance rather than malice...

Removing the old favorites like, (more or less) 'I'll remove your ability to bear children if you cheat' kind of statements -- my favorites are about the following -- paraphrased to be what I really think... not the leagalistic language of a syllabus :).

--- Minimum/Maximum grade --- "minimum grade" if you work really hard in my class, ask for help etc --- you won't fail. You'll get a D, but won't fail. I reward honest effort. "maximum grade", if you are an asshat who sleeps in class, is disrespectful, consistently late to class etc... no matter how good your graded work, you will get no more than a C.

--- Attend the whole class meeting -- leaving early is a sign of disrespect and is very disruptive to the flow of the class. Don't do it. If you can't stay for the whole class, don't come -- because I don't want you leaving in the middle. ---- Doctor's appointments should be made outside of class time, I do it and so can you. If your appointment is so important that you need to leave class early, you should make sure you are on time and take the class period off. Yes, it will count against your attendance -- no, I don't care.

--- If you can't handle discussing controversial topics, find another class. ----Don't go complaining to my dean that I had the nerve to have a pair of married lesbians into class to discuss same-sex marriage. They weren't there to offend your senisbilities, they were there to open your closed little minds -- and, by the way, one of those "horrible" lesbians would have been your classmate a couple of semesters ago -- and you probably would have gone to her for help with class material because she's f-ing smart... so there you hateful twit...

What are your favorites -- either that you encountered as a student or included in your own syllabus?


Addy N. said...

Wow- you have some tough ones on there! For my 100-level class, I always tell them (and it's on my syllabus, too) that they can call me "Addy" or "Dr. N.", but NOT "Mrs. N." I HATE being called Mrs. so-and-so. First of all, I didn't change my name when I got married, so I am not Mrs. Anybody. Secondly, I didn't spend all those years in school to be called Mrs., either! It isn't even that I don't like being called by my first name- they can call me that, too. I just hate "Mrs."- it sounds like I'm a high school teacher or something.

Sharon Crasnow said...

30 years teaching, 15 at a CC and I resist the long syllabus. I used to try to get it on one page, then one page both sides, it's three now which is short compared to most of my colleagues. My thinking is that the length makes it daunting reading and that it isn't really for reading anyway but for consulting. I did put in something like your minimum grade, not quite but similar. You cannot expect to pass the course if you do not do all the work. While it is actually possible to pass missing some of the less weighty assignments, I reserve the right to fail someone who doesn't bother turning in assignments.

Not attending the entire class? I always say come late rather than not coming, leave early if you must, again rather than not coming. My students are parents and hold either full or part-time jobs that they are juggling with their classes. They commute so traffic is unpredictable. Many are barely managing to stay in school as it is. I figure that anything that I can do to encourage them to try to be there is worth doing. I announce this policy the first day of class and will usually remind them sometime during the semester. I do ask students who have to leave early to let me know and to sit some place where their departure will cause minimal disruption. Again, I do not want a mother who has daycare issues to fail to come to class because she has to pick her child up early that day, or for that matter, even regularly.

If I have a class where behavior becomes a problem I will bring it up in class and call on the students to set guidelines for behavior.

Maybe my reluctance to address behavior in the syllabus is a result of being a child of the 60s/70s and perhaps I am unrealistic, but I have to say that I have had very few issues in 30 years.

medieval woman said...

These are great! I love the "maximum" and "minimum" grade thing. I think that it's especially important that the kids know that perfect attendance and writing good but uninspired papers does not equal an "A".

A couple of the things I put on my syllabi are:
1) Spellcheck is our friend

2) Do you know all those tricks you use to get a paper up to the page requirement? I'm onto them - don't piss me off with 16 point Courier font and 2 inch margins.

T-Mac said...

I like this a lot...good call on the max/min grade thing, I totally know what that's like.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...


I wasn't quite complete in the above -- I'm ok with an occasional late arrival and I make many exceptions for independent students and students who are parents.... all they have to do is to talk to me before the day of the class.

I had a couple of sections last fall that had ants in their pants -- a few students would leave early in the first few weeks, and it caught on. Several students outright lied to me on different occasions, saying they needed to leave class early to get to work and then I'd seen them in the commons right after class hanging out with their pals...

Sharon Crasnow said...

Ah yes, I've had that too. My worst was two semesters ago. One day I had what felt like a mass exodus! They just kept leaving. I have a pretty thick skin, but that got to me. I realized that I hadn't said anything about first class as I usually do and so asked the class to define a policy.

I enjoy your blog, btw. Balancing academic work, personal life, and the heavy teaching that is our lot in life, all good to share!