Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Say no to the Syllabus

The first week of school are filled with them. Colored sheets of paper, wasted ink, overstated content, obvious self composure rules and precious time thrown down the drain. All this comes in the form of a syllabus which is completely unneeded in a learning environment. I may have just shattered your world into little tiny pieces but bare with me on this idea. It’s not the entire syllabus I hate, just a majority of the content and the way that it is presented.

In a rapidly growing district that is striving to go green and cut down their paper consumption, there isn’t room to print thousands of unneeded restatements. By my rough calculations, I received six syllabuses and I’m sure 600 other kids in the building did too. Just in the 9th grade that is 3,600 pieces of paper and ink plus, don’t forget those inevitable multipage syllabuses. There is still unaccounted for syllabuses in the middle and high school which has a lot larger student body population.

What is being printed on these wasted pieces of paper but standardized content. They all mention the teachers name, phone, email, and blog address. That is great that these are mentioned but the point of those DIGITAL ways of communication is that it doesn’t have to printed on a piece of PAPER. They are all located in one spot on our school website. We went green and invested in online resources, and now they are just duplicates of what we’ve been doing for years? That isn’t real change at all.

The district wide Positive Behavior Intervention System and letter grading scale is always noted somewhere too. Did I mention district wide? Enough said. Retake policies are different for every class making everyone’s tasks more complicated. Which, is not how I believe it should be in any school but that’s another topic.

The worst part is that most of them had spots for parents to sign and initial, a syllabus that was intended to notify the students of what they are to expect in a class, not forced parent interaction. When you want your students to interact with their parents, it shouldn’t be a simple signature. There should be meaning and depth behind it. Something to discuss or create. It should be something enjoyable and authentic I’m sure John Spencer has my back on that.

I’m not bashing any teacher, school, or district because I know these horrid syllabuses are found in many schools. The overarching stereotype and push that this is the material we NEED to cover to be successful is just plain wrong. The real definition of a syllabus is the subject content of a class, not overstated rules. Instead, change your first day plans to an engaging activity. Ditch the syllabus because the website and handbook has already got you covered. If there really is new content your students need to know do you think a piece of signed paper is going to do the job? Hold an assembly, create a skit(s), use a video and discuss afterwards quickly during advisory. Teach them how you would want them to teach you. Because, letting a piece of paper run the room isn’t what anyone wants.

What does your first day of school consist of?
How do you introduce your classroom expectations and subject content?