Friday, January 16, 2015

Nine Years Ago from RYS.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Washington State Checks In.

With each new semester I want to believe that my students are going to be better. But after 5 years I am always disappointed.

We've just finished our first week of school. I provide a lengthy syllabus with instructions on everything from grading to attendance to dates of tests. Yet this weekend I received more than 20 emails asking questions that are easily found on the syllabus.

Not only do I distribute the syllabus, but we talk about it in class, and I take questions over the important matters. This might seem like a minor matter, but couldn't my time be better served on something other than replying to 20 emails that never should have been sent?

"How many tests are there?" one student writes. That's on page one under a heading called 'Tests.'

"I can't be here on January 19th. Will I miss anything?" Yes, there are three readings and a comprehension quiz all noted on the syllabus next to heading that says 'January 19th.' And, in the syllabus itself it tells you the policy on missing quizzes. That's page 2, under a heading called 'Quizzes.'

One student wrote, "I have a night class on Wednesday nights, and sometimes because of so much studing (sic) I oversleep. Do you have a policy on arriving late?" Yes, under the heading 'Late Policy' on page 3, you'll find all you need.

If this material doesn't sink in, I have grave concerns about the more intricate material that we cover in the actual class. Why aren't students listening, reading? Why aren't they plugged in to what the class is about, how it runs, what I expect? Do they really care so little that they can't be bothered to read the syllabus, or LISTEN to me when I read them the syllabus? These are the rules of the game, the rules of the road, the map to a final grade. And these are not freshmen either; most of my students are sophomores and juniors. You'd think they'd know better, or at least know better than to reveal themselves as complete dolts in the first week.

These students who have written in with questions on material they are expected to have learned in our first classes are starting in a hole with me. I already think they lack the intellectual rigor to do well in college. They already have shown me something of their abilities, their attention to detail. I'm already tired and it's just the second week.

What on earth do we have to do to get them to care about the class as much as we do?


  1. I had an epiphany.

    These snowflakes have had their asses so helicoptered that they haven't developed the skillset of self-direction and self-correction with the written instructions as their guide. They HAVE developed the habit of using electronic media to ask their friends, etc. information they could easily obtain themselves from a primary source.

    They are one of the reasons that a site like exists.

  2. Don't worry that your students are getting better. You have no control over that. You can make sure that YOU are a better instructor.

  3. I'm tempted to set up a standard reply to emails like these, but worry that the snowflakes would complain to the dean about my attitude.

    1. I guess it depends on what the standard reply is. To me, it comes down to what I should write and what I'd like to write. The former keeps the dean at bay and keeps me employed. The latter would be a blast to write.

      What I should write: All of the administrative information is in the syllabus that I handed out on the first day. Please check there and your questions will be answered.

      What I'd love to write: I would have assumed that anyone admitted to this institution of higher learning is literate. I would appear to be excessively optimistic. Kindly pull your head out of your ass and ask your roommate to read you the syllabus. Then, you can put your head back in and contemplate the back of your throat.

  4. I have a image file I grabbed off of some social media site showing the Corona Beer "most interesting man in the world" with the text I don't always ignore your emails ... but when I do it's because the answer is in the syllabus. which I put into the slides for the first day.

    It cuts down on the dumb emails. A little.

  5. My syllabus is now 18 pages long and counting. Of course I don't expect students to read it, but it's still useful as a bludgeoning weapon, since I know what's in it. But hey, in my intro-astronomy-for-non-majors course, I need to be more gentle than that, since they're all terrified of science, so I just answer their questions. It's like opening junk mail: it in fact gives me more pleasure than most kinds of mail, since I know exactly what to do with it.

  6. I have a boilerplate:

    That's covered in page X of the {syllabus | student manual}. Here's a link to it: [link]. If you need clarification, just give another shout and I'd be happy to answer your specific question.

    If they bother to contact me for clarification, then the ensuing communication might enlighten me and lead to me wordsmithing the document to make it more explicit for next year's class.


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