Syllabus week should be standard, not special
Another semester, another syllabus week. From ice breakers straight out of your second grade classroom to teachers who manage to change normal names like Brad into the exotic Ba-rah-de while reading the roster- there’s no pretending syllabus week isn’t wacky.
I am going to make the case that syllabus week should be standardized, at least to an extent. We are college students, and society expects that university is the place where students transition from adolescence into adulthood. School is, in essence, our current job, and it should be treated as such.
To begin, I think it’s time to do away with awkward ice breakers. Tomorrow nobody will remember what my favorite vegetable is. In fact, everyone was so preoccupied thinking of an interesting vegetable (we all know you don’t actually like rutabaga), and so anxious about being put on the spot, that chances are that they won’t remember anyone’s answer but their own.
If we were to enter the workforce today, would our boss walk us around the office and share a special fact about each of our co-workers? No. Instead of forcing things, class should mirror real life. If student relationships happen organically they will be more meaningful and interest driven.
I do understand that teachers use ice breakers to identify and distinguish the students from each other. In a lower level general education course, I think that this is acceptable.
However, in the higher courses students should be preparing to enter society, and therefore should be recognized by accomplishments and personal merit in the class. If you don’t perform well enough to be noticed in the classroom, chances are you won’t be noticed in the real world either.
Next we must discuss length of class and content on syllabus day. Walking into a new class, it is nearly impossible to predict how the “introduction” material will be presented. Will it last ten minutes and follow with an early dismissal? Or will we spend the rest of the time taking notes? Will we only get through half of the syllabus today? Did we already have homework on Blackboard? Shoot, we did.
To avoid this obvious confusion, teachers should continue to mirror content introductions to the workplace and the real world. In most jobs, there is a set “training” time period before one is expected to perform at the appropriate work level. I believe (except in the case of 6-9 p.m. classes) that one class period (no more or no less) should be dedicated to “introduction and training.” After that students and professors should be prepared to dive into the new semester. In maintaining a loose introduction standard (of sorts) students may have an easier time adjusting to different classes and the semester as a whole.
The wackiest week in the West (Michigan, that is) is coming to a close. I hope you have all survived syllabus week without too many Ba-rah-de hiccups. I also hope that in the future we can standardize syllabus week and cut out some of the second-grade baloney. May the odds (and the curves) be ever in your favor this semester.