New faces. New people. A new semester. The summer heat begins to wane and the nights begin to feel cooler. The swimming pools are now emptier and family schedules become busier. This is ever true for the typical college professor.
The beginning of a semester is an enjoyable, albeit stressful, time of the year. The first day of classes is exciting and invigorating, but it can often be dry as it focuses on the course policy and syllabus. These combined documents are a contract between myself as their professor and them as the students. Over the years that contract has ballooned from a one page document to a whopping seven page document! Ugh…
Many students do not read it, yet they registered to attend the class and, subsequently, are bounded to it. It offers the vision of the course in addition to a daily schedule. Often it will contain all the assignment details and the due dates for them. It always contains a grading policy, that is, how they will be assessed throughout the course. It gives classroom and university policies, such as attendance, late-work, and academic integrity policies. I am as much bounded to the contract as they are. It is my way of showing my cards upfront.
The document communicates to students how to be successful in the course. It provides information about obtaining help, time-management strategies, and essential tips to be a learner in mathematics. The success of students does not hinge on their intellect or natural mathematical ability, rather their willingness to be coached and learn. It may require difficulty and hardship. It may require sacrifice to obtain a greater good down the road. It may require being uncomfortable. It may require more time than you thought. It may require the recognition that you can not do it alone. It may require admitting that help is necessary. It may even require being in class regularly!
In all, it requires their attention.
For the inattentive student, how is their attention gained? Their grade in the course. No student wants to fail a class. They all want an A grade. In other words, when given the option, it is reasonable to assume that all students want to pass rather than fail.
God has also given a course policy that details a grading policy. And we are all registered for His course. It states that perfection is the only way to pass the course. Bummer. However, later in the course policy we find that a perfect score can be awarded to you if another classmate with a perfect grade wants to switch places. You read on and it tells you the student’s name that will do this for you. Oddly enough the student’s name is the teacher’s name! Would you take that offer knowing you could not simply drop the course? What would your reaction be?
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