The Great Unknown

I arrived on campus four years ago today to teach my first course at Wheaton.  

Every semester I learn more about being a better teacher and evolve my courses to ensure that they are the best possible for my students. 

The last two years have been a challenge that none of us have faced before. I’ve been part of many discussions around finding the right mix of flexibility while still holding students accountable for learning. There is no magic formula that works in every case. 

Inspired by the writings of Jesse Stommel, I wanted to update all of my syllabi to have clear language for all of my students that I’m here to help them learn before all else. 

While I know few students read the syllabi their Professors put in front of them, I took a long time to make sure this new section would build upon my post A Note To My Students I wrote back in 2018. Plus, I know I’ll be sharing it directly in my first classes later this week so that the students are aware of my priorities. 

I struggled with what to call this section and opted to call it The Great Unknown.

It reads:

“We live in a world where things can change at a moment’s notice and without warning.

We’ve both chosen to spend the next months together learning. I want this to be a good experience for us, and that is why I’m asking you to let me know if there is anything I can do to help your semester be better.

When life starts throwing curveballs at you, and it begins to get in the way of your learning, please let me know. Don’t wait until after an assignment is due to come to me and raise issues.

I never need to know the details of what you are dealing with. But, if you never tell me that something is causing you to struggle, I can’t help you.

After it is an excuse, beforehand, it is a reason.

Extensions are easy to grant but can only happen if asked for.

I’m only an email or text away, and my door is always open to help you if you ask for it.

Please do everything you can to protect your safety, health, and well-being. Don’t forget to eat, drink lots of water and sleep. Check in on your friends, call home and get outside whenever possible.

Need to talk or need anything else? Please, contact me, and we’ll figure out a way to try and get you what you need. If it isn’t something I can directly help with, Wheaton has many offices, services, and individuals who may be able to help.

Together, we’ll get through this semester.”

To my fellow educators and to all the students out there, I hope you have a safe and productive semester.