Syllabus Week

SYLLABUS WEEK used to be that you come to class, do some ice breakers and listen to what is expected of you for the rest of the semester. But those days are long gone. For whatever reason, some instructors are now dishing out homework on the first, second, or third day of classes. And that’s just insane!

Syllabus week has been rough, too. One homework here, some over there, and another one in my backpack. Why are professors so insensitive?! Have they forgotten that we have other responsibilities?! 

I had one professor say to me; “If you’re taking more than 15 credited classes, you better do yourself a favor and drop this class because I am expecting a lot from you.” Though he was smiling when he said that, I don’t think he was joking. Another professor said to us that she’s planning on handing out challenging homework this semester because, last semester, students did the bare minimum.

If you’re handing out homework while students are just doing the bare minimum, then obviously dishing out more homework is not the answer. Perhaps, your students might be doing the bare minimum because they’re trying to find a balance between other responsibilities?

Refusing to acknowledge that homework is not the end-all-be-all, signifies that you are out of touch with your students. Also, that you admire your ego more than you value their well-being. Students are not simply soulless robots solving equations and crunching up numbers all day, we have other obligations, too! Majority of us are working, trying to navigate complicated relationships, and are involved in extracurricular activities.

I, for example, have 16 credits to worry about, an internship to complete, and a host of other responsibilities that are in constant need of my full attention. To the student like myself, it is ludicrous and insensitive to expect us to fully commit ourselves to more demanding assignments.

It may sound like I am indifferent to homework, but that’s not the case. Like most teachers, I agree that assigning homework to students gives us the opportunity to strengthen what we’ve already learned. Furthermore, I believe that homework – as an idea or as a practical tool of measurement – is absolutely essential because it encourages competition. This element of competition is what drives innovation and creativity. Without competition our schools and our lives would be dull and disinteresting.

So, you see, I don’t think that having homework is a bad thing, but what I think is that having too much of it, especially on the first, second, or third day of classes, can be discouraging and overwhelming. The introduction of syllabus week was meant to give us a snapshot of what the rest of our classes might look like. In other words, it’s a time to relax and to get to know the people who you might be spending the rest of the semester with. When we depart from this general school of thought, syllabus week not only becomes stressful but it also primes us to do the bare minimum.

Though doing the bare minimum or dropping a few classes sounds appealing right now, I will not do that. Rather, I’m going to hunker down and get all of my homework done because that’s just who I am. I love the challenge.

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