Student Success Strategy #3: Read the Syllabus

My phantom student came to my office today, walking there from a mile away  to ask for a chance to make up some work.  “I’ll do anything,” he said.  “Is it grim?”

“Yes, it is definitely grim.”

“Can I help you grade papers?  I’ll take all the quizzes right now.  What can I do so I don’t fail?  Really, I will do anything for you.”

[If only it were ethical to have him wash my car, clean my house, or do the lawn work!]

After reviewing the syllabus with him, he realized that without prior notice, he has no expectation of making up anything he missed.

“I came to talk to you in person, because I know I was not a good student this semester.  My grandfather died, then my cousin died, and I’ve been sick for weeks [I’ll spare you the graphic physiological details].  I also know that my actions were irresponsible and disrespectful to you, and I apologize for that.”

The apology/explanation/plea went on very eloquently for several minutes.  I looked at his grades.  At the beginning of the semester he was a top student.  Suddenly, everything changed.  He was either telling the truth (tears, full-body shaking, a definite loss of weight, even red eyes) or a sophisticated liar.

Student Success Strategy #3:  Read the syllabus so you know the requirements of the class and the consequences for not meeting those requirements.

My first class day is dedicated to stressing each part of the syllabus, and why it is so important to review it regularly.  Most student questions are answered in the syllabus.

I give a quiz on the content of the syllabus after a week to further stress the “contract” it contains.  Although due dates and details can change through the semester, the basic tenets remain the same.

What do you think is the right response?

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