Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's Easy to Talk Tough on the Syllabus in January. Wait Till Someone With Weepy Eyes Comes To You in Early May. That's When We Always Go Mushy.

We start school pretty soon so I have to get my syllabus ready. Like all of you who read RYS, I view the syllabus as a written contract with the students. We tell them what we’ll cover, when we’ll cover it, when the deliverables are due and how much they’ll count toward the grade. Pretty simple stuff. Sort of. Here are some things I’ve had to make sure I stress after 10 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate management students.

  • Makeup exams. I don’t give them. If a student misses a midterm, I shift the weight to the final. I can’t begin to tell you how many grandparents’ lives I’ve saved this way. If I get more than 1 student (out of 50 or 60) missing an exam, it’s unusual. It’s taken a lot of the bullshit out of the semester. The downside – sometimes, a student will be unprepared, take the test and ask me not to count it after (s)he has taken it. Sorry kiddies but mulligans stay on the golf course.

  • The final is when it’s scheduled to be. If that’s late in finals week, tough shit. Don’t tell me you’ve already made flight arrangements. You’ve confused me for someone who gives a shit.

  • I’m going to have to add a line to the syllabus for my part-time graduate students in the fall semester. The final is when it’s scheduled. I don’t care if it conflicts with your company’s Christmas party. Call me the Grinch. I’ve heard worse.

  • I put on the syllabus that it’s up to the student to learn how to use their calculator. That, as it turns out, is as useful as a glass eye at a keyhole. They never keep their manuals or they don’t bother to open them. I love it when they come to my office a half hour before the exam and ask how to use their calculators. Our admissions office assures us they had great SAT scores, were ranked high in their classes, blah blah blah.

  • I also tell them I don’t take attendance but I know who attends regularly and who doesn’t. Gotta love it late in the semester when the student whose face was on a milk carton comes by expressing great concern over his/her performance in the class. Sorry about this, but the 13th week in the semester is a little late to start to give a shit, isn’t it now?