So...what, exactly, does a digital photography or graphic design course syllabus look like when:
- You know that you’ll be teaching some students in the classroom and some online, or
- You hate doing the syllabus on the first day of school anyway, or
- You don’t even know what the fall is really going to look like yet!
Well, it is a tricky situation, to be sure, but I’ve got some tips to set you off in the right direction. I’ve even got a sample syllabus that you can use as a template for your own classroom!
I still think it is important to have a document handed out to students telling them what they can expect from you and the way that your classroom is run. Even if everything changes and the world flips upside down again. They may not exactly thank you, but a sense of routine and stability that is provided by a syllabus is important for a student’s security.
A quality digital photography or graphic design syllabus should include all of the following:
- Your information: the best way to get ahold of you.
- The class purpose: this could be straight out of the “course catalogue” if your school has one.
- Your goal for teaching the class: something straight from the heart ;)
- Classroom rules: Respect, preparedness, clean-up, etc. These things may vary if you know that you’ll be teaching completely online.
- Materials needed: USB, camera card, sketchbook, etc
- Cell phone policy: take this one straight from your school handbook if you like!
- Class procedures: What do you do at the start and end of class? What do you expect them to do while they are in your class?
- Grading: Everybody does this a bit differently. I graded students on four points: projects, classwork or sketchbook, tests, and daily participation. Do this however you like, but they ought to know these things at the start.
- Make-up work: Do you accept it? If so, what is your procedure for this?
- Classroom environment: address that you expect them to follow the guidelines of the syllabus and let them know what will happen if they choose not to follow them.
Then after all that, I like to add a contract at the end that they need to sign, and have their parents sign, and return to you. This could be the first grade in your book, if you like. It also serves as security for you if they say, “I never knew that I couldn’t turn in assignments 3 days late!”
Now to address the obvious...going over the school syllabus is...well, boring! There are certainly things that can be done to spice it up a bit. You could play “syllabus trivia” after you go through it. This serves as a fun diversion and helps them fully understand what is in the syllabus. You could take a break in the middle and do a fun icebreaker activity, but whatever you do, don’t skip going over it entirely! They need to know what to expect going into your class, especially now that so many things are so uncertain!
Before we part....the elephant in the room, what do you put in the syllabus when you know that things are likely to completely change at a moment’s notice if the CDC decides something different?
Well, a clause at the end saying “Please note that some of these things are subject to change if there is a change in school policy or a COVID crisis update” would do nicely. :)
My point here is that you need to provide a sense of normalcy for your students, especially since so much of their lives have been abnormal lately!
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