Monday, August 22, 2011

Early Thirsty on Syllabus Making and Faking.

Call me Tonya from Tucumcari.

I'm in my 2nd year of adjuncting - after a disastrous first 2 years of job searching. After spending weeks making up syllabi for my first year of teaching, books changed in all of my classes at a regional state uni.

Now, with summer school just ended, I have one week left to write new schedules for the whole semester using the new books.

Q: Should I ruin my ONE week off this year, or should I sort of fake a new syllabus, leaving lots of TBAs and general "chapter 7" type assignments? Is anyone likely to closely parse my schedule of events, or can I relax and do it in broad strokes for now?


  1. Your course supervisors don't care about anything other then the boilerplate sections about accommodations, plagiarism and the other required elements.

    Your students don't read your syllabus.

    Enjoy your week off.

  2. I second "miserable" here. Don't bother. Do what you need to do to make the syllabus somewhat workable for what your supervisors want and what students expect, but flexible enough to make the teaching easier as well. If you are being paid for this week of preparation (or, just as likely, if the moon really is made of cheese), then invest a lot of time and energy into the syllabus. Otherwise, f$%& it.

  3. Students think that even "tentative" syllabi are contracts. I try to estimate the dates of the first couple exams, mainly so they will know the pacing and not panic too early. What usually happens is we get close to the date and I tell them the date will be pushed back a little. They snarl and grumble. (This always shocks me, as extra time before an exam was always a good thing.)
    All I do now is state the topic and put a range like 2-3 weeks.
    I do find the time and date of the final and put it on the syllabus; this avoids the slew of excuses the last week. I love how the little dears buy plane tickets during finals week and expect us to accommodate them.

  4. Pick some far off dates for major assignments. Sprinkle in chapters, pages, whatever. Nobody reads this shit. They want proof you gave a syllabus.

    I often re-publish a syllabus's last page with full schedule mid-semester, when I actually know what we can cover.

    Don't ruin your one week off.

  5. Broad strokes, general outline. My institution insists that we abide by the dates of scheduled assessments (quizzes, etc), so I put those in but what's on the quiz depends on what we covered before it.

    In the middle of the same exercise myself and wondering how little i can get away with. Answer; surprisingly little.

  6. What everyone said. You need and deserve this vacation.

    But make it a CYA* syllabus; in case it doesn't already address these things, consider:

    Students requesting accommodations for religious holidays and disabilities must arrange these with the instructor during the first two weeks of the semester.

    Mandatory attendance? Penalties for being late or absent?

    Makeup exams ever available? Under what conditions? (The harder the better: 100% essay exam, only if notified by the day of the scheduled exam and only for a verified emergency.)

    Late assignments ever accepted? Penalties?

    Classroom disruption not tolerated; examples, penalties. Cell phones must be turned off. Sleepers and those reading books and newspapers will be dismissed from class.

    Plagiarism policy?

    Dropping the class is the student's responsibility, not the instructor's.

    *Cover Your Ass

  7. I put a few major events, all padded with general bullshittery. Include the phrase, "Syllabus may be changed at any time during the semester at the discretion of the instructor. Students should be familiar with and log on to [Blackboard, Moodle, etc] for announcements and updates."

    I am gearing up to teach my sixth new class in three semesters of adjuncting at this particular school. I'm enjoying the last moments of summer, and not doing anything to prepare. On my state unemployment forms, it asks me, "Did you do any work, WHETHER YOU WERE PAID OR NOT?" I always mark, "No." My hands are tied!

  8. Like several others above, I think it might be worth spending one day with a calendar, coming up with some major deadlines for major assignments. That will ultimately make life easier for you (you don't want all the grading to come in at the same time), and will appease the 1-2 students per section who actually sit down with their syllabi and calendars and plan out their semesters during the first week of school (and who will complain bitterly, in class and probably on evaluations as well, if the deadlines aren't available. I'll admit to some sympathy with them, partly because I was one of those students -- minus the complaining -- and partly because we really do want them to learn to plan ahead). Put a list of "important dates" or "major deadlines" at the end of the syllabus, and a note saying "see class calendar for details." Then distribute a separate class calendar with activities and assignments for the first week or two of class spelled out, and broad strokes after that.

  9. To echo everyone here, cover your ass--don't give your students any reason to get you into trouble--but don't do a thing about it until the night before classes (or the morning of, the time your students frequently use to complete their assignments).

    No one cares but you. Don't work until you have to.


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