A lot of what there is to know when taking an English course with me is common to all the courses I develop and facilitate. Some of that is about how we organize ourselves and some of that is simply guidance on reading, writing, and working that I have collected over the years and have found both useful and compelling to students.
For a start, read Rob Jenkins’ essay on “Defining the Relationship.” Jenkins is also a professor of English at a regional state university in the south. His approach is similar to mine.
No, seriously, go read it. I’ll wait. Ready to move on? Okay…
A number of studies have pretty well established that while students, and many teachers, prefer the lecture model, wherein a professor professes and students study, students actually learn better when engaged in active learning. Despite the pretty incontrovertible proof of such studies, most teachers and students dislike active learning. For teachers, it’s hard to organize activities that engage students effectively in the material while accommodating the range of student abilities – the lecture model assumes relatively little of student ability. For students, active learning requires being active in a context that they too often think of as a passive space.
I try to keep a mix of lecture, discussion, and activity inside and outside the classroom in all the courses I facilitate, with the assumption being not only that different methods work for different people but also that even individuals need different things at different moments.
Discussion, completion of assignments, and participation in course activities are an important part of how I structure a course. I prefer not to lecture from any given book so that I can add to our discussion and not repeat material found elsewhere – if repetition is important to you, then this may not be the course for you. Class meetings should be viewed in the same light as professionals view meetings in general: everyone arrives on time, if not early, and everyone takes notes no matter who is talking. (It goes without saying that you deserve everyone else’s respect, and they deserve yours.)
Note-taking is your responsibility, as is keeping up with what is happening or happened in class on a given day or what is due in class following your absence. (Not handing in an assignment because you didn’t know about it because you missed class and did not contact one of your classmates still counts as not handing in the assignment.) Please write down the name and contact information of at least one other member of this class.
The university maintains a strict absence policy. If an absence is at all foreseeable, especially if it falls on a due date, you should let me know as much in advance as you can in order to find a solution. The same goes for arriving late or departing early. If you are more than five minutes late, you will not be admitted to class – unless you have a very good narrative and can perform it with a zeal glimpsed only in performances by Cirque du Soleil or Frank Sinatra.
Turn off all sources of distraction before coming into class. Cell phones must be set to silent and put away, unless you are expecting an emergency telephone call, in which case you should talk to me before class starts and sit near an exit so that you can excuse yourself and step outside to take the telephone call. Simon Sinek has a good account of how cell phones satisfy us and, at the same time, keep us from the kinds of actions that lead to long-term things like relationships and satisfaction.
All of you have a copy of the Code of Student Ethics. If you do not, please get one. All forms of academic dishonesty — e.g., cheating on exams, plagiarism in papers — will be taken very seriously in this class. At minimum, you will receive an F on the assignment, but there is also the possibility of receiving an F in the course or being dismissed from the university. I personally do not want to consider the possibility of turning over the design of a bridge that my family will cross to an engineer who cheats nor the diagnosis of a medical condition to a doctor who cheats. Many of you are from Louisiana and remain in Louisiana and thus will remain a part of my world: being surrounded by individuals whom I trust and admire is important to me. Please give me every opportunity to do so.
Learn how to use the Review functionality in your word processor. Once you and I have begun to swap copies of your draft, leave Track Changes on. I want you to be able to see the changes I have made so that you can make the same changes elsewhere in the draft. If you don’t want to see those changes, there are view options, but please don’t keep making new copies of your paper with all the revision notes lost. You need to see the process, and part of how I assess you is in the nature of your drafting and revising process. And, yes, learn how to use the style system functionality in your word processor. It’s the twenty-first century, stop using your computer like it’s a fancy typewriter (or a smart TV for that matter). It’s a general purpose computing device, more powerful than all the machines in the room that landed a man on the moon, and all you do with it type papers (at the last minute), check social media, and find ways to avoid learning how to use databases.
One day, the University will create a central resource that collects stuff like this, but until then, they ask faculty to include things like this:
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and “Designated Rescue Area.” Students who need assistance should identify themselves to the instructor.
Accessibility Services, Disability Services, & Other Helpful People
Students needing academic accommodations for a disability must first be registered with the Office of Disability Services (ODS) to verify the disability and to establish eligibility for accommodations. Students may call 337-482-5252 or visit the ODS office in the Conference Center, room 126. Once registered, students should then schedule an appointment with the professor to make appropriate arrangements.
Every piece of paper you hand in, I hand back. If you are not in class on the day I hand back a particular piece of paper, you will find it in the folder outside my office door. It will stay there until the first few weeks of the following semester, when I purge the previous semester to make way for new material. If you have not picked up any pieces of paper belonging to you by then, the assumption is that you do not want them.
The Writing Center
The writing center is open every semester and has hours not only in H. L. Griffin but also in the library: the Satellite Station is near the Reference Desk, over by the Mural.
Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Monday - Thursday: 6-9 p.m.
Sunday: 2 - 5 p.m.