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I could go for some Swedish fish right about now
Previous | Next by muhgcee 30 January, 2003 - 7:00 PM

OK so now that the semester has started, I haven't really been getting on Interweb that much. So honestly I have only really been reading about half the stuff on here and obviously I haven't really been posting. I tried to post once but it was a really long one about my trip to Philly and by the time I hit submit, it had been too long, and my stuff got deleted. So this time I am taking the extra precaution of typing it up in XEmacs beforehand so I don't lose it.

Today we are going to go ahead and evaluate the complete waste of time that is the first day of class. Even after you get out of elementary, middle, and high-school, this senseless wasting of my time has come into almost all of the college courses that I have taken. All of the information is written out plain and clear on a syllabus, yet the professors always seem to think that even though we are expected to learn derivatives, Inertia, dynamic memory allocation, and how to conjugate verbs in Spanish, we somehow will be completely befuddled by a simple syllabus. Also, even if they don't spend much time on the syllabus, for whatever reason they probably don't have a lesson plan for that day.

Cases in point:

  • My Biology lab yesterday, which was supposed to run for 3 hours, lasted 20 minutes because she only wanted to go over the syllabus.
  • Half of the 2 hours and 45 minutes that was my computer science class last night was spent going over the syllabus. I don't understand how he managed to talk for this long about that very, very simple subject.
  • My Biology lab lecture lasted only 30 minutes, 15 of which were spent going over issues with the hold list. The other 15 were spent showing us elementary instructions on how to use a microscope.

How many levels of schooling do I have to go through to get rid of this unnecessary step that takes place on the first day of class? I'll tell you how many. If I ever become a teacher, I will hand out the syllabus, tell them to take it home and read it, and go over one or two points that I want to make sure they understand, like turning their damn cell phones off. That will take 3 minutes and the rest of the time will be spent lecturing. Anyone else run into these problems?

1/31/2003 >> pyrex

Um.... yeah. God how I hate it when teachers undermine his/her students' intelligence. And for christ's sake, going over something like the syllabus.. I mean how does that take hours? A general layout is ok, but come on, you can deal with it when you friggin' well get to it!

1/31/2003 >> Anne

Yeah, but people are stupid. Very stupid. Even college students. In fact, I am amazed at the lack of common sense many students have. Things like don't come to class drunk and hand in assignments aren't obvious, so why should anything else be? And read a syllabus? You'd think college students could read and follow simple instructions....

1/31/2003 >> jackie

you'd be surprised how many problems i have run into with students who never read their syllabus and totally missed how much reading there is for my class, when exams are, how many there are, etc and who then expect special treatment or extra credit "because they didn't know." hello? read the syllabus, shmucks! that's why i do that the first day. my class is supposed to run from 6:30 to 9:15 pm and i only kept them for an hour this first class (last monday). i did do some discussion/introduciton stuff, so they would get an idea of what kind of teacher i'm going to be, but not much else. here's some reasons why.

so many kids add/drop that first week, you can't do anything crucial.

you really do have to go over the syllabus, just to save yourself issues later. another thorny issue is kids who come to you later in the semester and tell you how many other assignments and exams they have the week you assigned yours, and can't you cut them some slack. i don't. you knew my due dates when you signed up for my class. your schedule is not my problem.

most kids come to class not having bought the book yet, and never bring paper or pen.

just sticking up for the profs out there :)

1/31/2003 >> pyrex

Yeah crap, I haven't been to a college yet, but I have been through the rigorous British IGCSE system and a boarding school, both of which expected a lot. I mean sheesh, you get a syllabus, you follow it. Get an overload of work, fucking deal with it. And of course, always come to class with at least a pen and paper. Nobody found that too hard to follow, so why should anyone?

1/31/2003 >> muhgcee

Jackie - wouldn't it make more sense to lay the responsibility on the students on the first day just like the rest of the semester? You can tell them on the first day "Here's the syllabus. I'm not responsible for you not reading it." and it works out like the rest of college does. If a professor gives me a reading assignment it is up to me to do it. It shouldn't be the professor's concern whether or not I actually read it, how I read it or when I read it. But the professors put everything else on the student (as it should be), why not do this the first day? As for the add/drop thing, if the students have a good idea that they are going to be adding a class they should be showing up to the class anyway (or as much of it as they can). If they don't realize until a week in, the onus is on them to work their asses off until they catch up. I never look forward to going to the first day of any of my classes because I know that the first 3 minutes of class will probably be the only ones that matter. I must give credit to my WWII history professor - we went over the whole of WWI the first day.

1/31/2003 >> ben

don't come to class drunk? what now? no one ever told me that rule... damnit! i need a handbook for EVERYTHING!!! weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

i was about to do a whole thing here about what college is about, class or not... but it ain't that important on a friday afternoon...

peace to all.

1/31/2003 >> Casey

What's a syllabus? Is that like public transport for peices of words?

2/2/2003 >> jackie

muhgcee-- i definitely see your point, from a practical sense. here's what i think:

first, if i only thought about what my students "should" do, instead of what they most likely will do, i would be disappointed over and over again. i think students should do all their assigned reading. i think students shouldn't come to college unless they really want to be there. i think that students who want interesting discussions should actually talk during class. unfortunately, none of this is certain behavior, but more the most desireable situation.

second, there are actually things i need to say about the calss i don't wrie on teh syllabus, mainly in the interests of paper, and to teach them form the very beginning that i will add to their printed class materials whenever i feel like it, and that it is their responsibility to be there to hear it.

third, i do so much explaining because it saves me valuable class time later in the semester when students try to lobby for extended time, extra credit, etc etc. i just say, "we talked about this on the first day of class. it's not open to discussion." otherwise, it's a free-for-all.

fourth, another reason i don't do anything but syllabus and discussion/introductions the first day is that i really do try to plan how i'm going to teach each class, based on the students i have. so i use the first class to gather information that will direct how i plan the rest of my classes. their interests, their professions, their majors, their expectations of me and of the class (written down anonymously) all help me tailor the class to each group of students. it's time-consuming, but the only way i feel comfortable. i'm not a big elcturer.

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