I have noticed a trend over the past twenty plus years that I have been working almost exclusively with college students.
When scheduling their regular tutoring sessions for the semester, and I suggest the first week of school for booking, a healthy 90% of them say, “Nah, we don’t need to start until the second week. The first week is just syllabus week. We don’t do anything.”
This makes my head twist on my neck Linda Blair/The Exorcist style.
I sink to my knees in despair, tearing my hair and rending my garments, wailing, “Why, God? Why??”
I clutch the legs of the student before me, imploring them to listen to me, beseeching them to discard this Bitter Myth, this frivolous and dangerous conspiracy theory.
I want to stand up and conk the kid on the head like Whack-A-Mole and say, “There’s no such thing as syllabus week, bean brain.”
Syllabus class…maybe. Syllabus hour if you’re lucky. But an entire week of precious class time devoted to covering the contents of a syllabus??
You’d have to be a pretty slow reader to make one last that long.
There is no such thing as ‘Syllabus Week.’ I assure you.
YOU, dear student, are delusional. I guaran-damn-tee your college journalism/chemistry/calculus/statistics/economics professor is NOT of the mindset that Week 1 is this mythical, student-dreamed-up “syllabus week.”
I really need to find the moron who came up with this notion and give him a high five. In the face. With a chair.
A syllabus is defined as: *a written document that contains all of the pertinent and relevant information about a semester-long college class, including (but not limited to):
*That’s from the New Kimberling Dictionary.
Let me explain how this breaks down. When I was teaching college, I would spend agonizing hours – tens of hours – trying to figure out the pacing of the class.
First I counted how many classes of face time I had: how many times the class meets a week times how many weeks in the semester (including the first week).
Subtract out holidays and whatnot. Perhaps conservatively deduct a class or two for the random water main break or ice/snow day or some such.
Then I converted the number of classes to hours of face time (sometimes even minutes of face time).
When I taught, I had a department-mandated quantity and content of material I was required to impart to my classes, and a finite amount of time to do it. I had to make every second count.
Maybe I was a mean, horrible, had-too-high-expectations kind of professor, but here’s how my first class usually went:
“Here’s your syllabus. Don’t lose it. I assume since you’ve made it to college you can all read. READ THIS SYLLABUS. Keep it in a safe place; I suggest laminated and in the front of your notebook, if not taped to your bathroom mirror or under your pillow. Make multiple copies. Keep one in your car and one in a safe deposit box.
It’s the only way I can communicate everything you need to know about the entire semester – important test and quiz dates, my attendance/missed quiz/cheating policies, my office hours and how to contact me, and a proposed schedule of material covered – to all of you at the same time.
If you have a question for me, read the syllabus first – the answer is probably in there. If you ask me a question and the answer is in the syllabus, I will – probably in a snarky tone – direct you back to the syllabus. This is your map, your blueprint, your bible for this class this semester.
We have a lot to cover this semester, and every minute is precious. Get out your notebooks and let’s get started.”
And I GUARANTEE your zoology/sociology/astronomy/English/communications professor is doing the exact. same. thing.
Some professors consider their syllabus so important they have a quiz over it.
And I have SEEN STUDENTS FAIL THE QUIZ! Over the syllabus!! All you have to do is read it! Seriously, it’s like failing a quiz where the only question is “write your name.”
Come ON, people, help me help you.
The successful students call the first week of school, ‘The First Week of School.’ The ones who start out behind the 8-ball call it ‘Syllabus Week.’
In case you need added incentive, I’ve also personally seen the following in a syllabus:
Page 3: If you have read this far, please type the following phrase in an email to me by the end of the second week of school, with the subject line “syllabus.” Here is the phrase: “Jellybeans are for babies, but Twizzlers are for real men.” Those who do so by the deadline will receive 50 extra points on their final grade.
FIFTY POINTS!!! Do you know what that can do to your grade?!? And all you have to do is actively read the syllabus!
Another syllabus “trick”:
Students were directed, in the syllabus, in writing, to go to a certain grocery store in town, certain aisle, directed to a certain product tucked in far back on the shelf. Taped to the shelf was an envelope with five hundred dollars in it.
Five. Hundred. Dollars.
And halfway through the semester, the professor found the envelope still intact in the grocery store.
You are literally giving away free money and points.
Oh, and a chance at an A in your class.
In another blog post/soapbox rant, I’ll tell you how to actually use the damn thing. But first you need to find it, read it, and print it out!
Syllabus week. Snort. As if.
And don’t even get me started on “Dead Week.” Insert eye-roll emoji here.