“You can’t consume an education, you can only earn it.”–Jakub Grygiel
Please read these general course policies. They apply to all courses I teach. You should print these policies and keep them handy.
Read this First
This blog post by Jeff Goins does a great job of explaining the difference between habits likely to lead to improvement and habits likely to lead to self-defeat.
Revision of Major Projects
I encourage you to revise your projects because almost nobody nails a challenging writing problem on the first try. Revision helps you learn. Major projects that I designate are eligible for one revision after I grade them. Here are the revision policies for such projects:
- You may revise a project that was turned in on time to begin with (or was turned in no more than 24 hours late with your “one free late project”)
- Revisions are due by a reasonable deadline to be determined with each project (we’ll figure out a reasonable deadline when I return the graded projects). The deadline will be posted to the course calendar.
- If you choose not to revise a project, the first grade will stand as your project grade.
- I recommend strongly that you read my feedback on your projects and come see me to make a revision plan. If you choose to revise without meeting with me and making a plan, you may or may not be “on the right track.” Your revised project might not be as successful or useful to learning as it would have been had you met with me.
Revision Memo and “Compare” Document Required
- Your revision, whether you meet with me to plan it or not, must be uploaded to the appropriate dropbox on Canvas. You also need to email me two important items:
- a revision memo and
- a “compare” document of the original submission versus the revised submission.
- So, it’s three documents:
- revised project uploaded to Canvas dropbox;
- revision memo, emailed to me, and
- “compare” document, emailed to me.
- This is a detailed memo explaining exactly what you revised, how you revised it, and the rhetorical or argumentative purpose of each revision (you may group similar items; use your common sense). Make it work in concert with the “compare” document; explain what you revised and why you revised it. Be sure to explain how you addressed my comments on the original graded submission.
- If you can explain your revisions and their purposes to me, that means you probably learned something worthwhile from revising the project. The memo is major evidence of learning and is supposed to “walk me through” your rhetorical and argumentative growth.
- The memo need not follow any particular format or be fancy, but it does have to make it easy for me to see why you revised what you revised. A bulleted list of paragraphs with headings is just fine, so long as it is clear and developed. Substance matters more than form here.
- No memo (or superficial memo), no revision accepted. Yes, I definitely mean that. I will reject any revision not accompanied by a detailed revision memo; in such cases, the original grade will stand.
- If you revise a project, the first thing to do is to make a copy of the original submission, change the filename to show that it is revised, and work on that revised file.
- You want separate files with separate, useful, clear file names, e.g., Smith-ENGW-1302-Proj1-Original and Smith-ENGW-1302-Proj1-Revised. That way, you will have a clear separation between the project as you submitted it originally and the revision.
- Here are the steps for making a “compare” document for my classes:
1) Have your original text and final revisions to that text handy in electronic form.
2) Follow these instructions for Word 2011 on Mac or for Word on Windows. The original submission will be on the left-hand pane as the original document and the revised submission will be on the right-hand pane. Compare them at the character level and show the changes in a new, third, document. That third document is the “compare” document that accompanies your revision memo.
3) Email me the revision memo and “compare” document: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The “compare” document works in concert with your revision memo. It shows, in great detail, exactly what is different, and not, between a revised project and the first graded version.
- I will reject any revision not accompanied by a “compare” document; in such cases, the original grade will stand.
Meeting with Me Outside of Class
Posted Office Hours: Come See Me
Posted office hours are not the hours I set aside to be in my office, hiding from students and doing my “real work.” Teaching is my real work. Office hours are the hours I have set aside to be available to students. They are your time. Don’t be shy. Stop in and talk to me.
Here is a funny video from Arizona State University that might convince you to come to office hours.
Office Hours: Like Private Lessons
Writing is a teachable, learnable human activity like, say, skiing. Even talented athletes need practice and individual feedback if they are to become proficient skiers. The same holds true for writing. Think of class time as the “group lesson” and office hours as the “private lesson.” Which student-teacher ratio do you believe will help you improve the most: 20:1 or 1:1? Not surprisingly, I have found a high correlation between student improvement and student willingness to meet with me outside of class.
Office Hours: Just Show Up–No Need for Appointment
My posted office hours are drop-in, first-come, first-served, no appointment needed. You don’t need to email me to ask if I will be in my office during posted office hours: I will be there unless I have emailed everyone to notify them of some emergency that prevents me from being there. If I have not done so, assume that I will be there and drop in.
Setting Appointments Outside of Posted Office Hours
If you can’t make it to my posted office hours, please send me an email with a clear subject line asking for an appointment, describing in one sentence what you want the subject of the appointment to be, and proposing three dates and times that you are available for the appointment. Don’t send an email asking if I have any time to meet with you, because all I can write in reply is something like “Maybe. When are you available?” and we’re right back where we would be if you proposed three dates and times that you are available for the appointment in your first email to me.
Getting the Most out of Meetings
To get the most out of meetings with me (or any professor), think of two specific goals for the meeting. What do you want to leave the meeting having discussed and worked on?
The same preparation will serve you well in Writing Center appointments. There is usually a significant performance gap between students who show up for appointments with specific goals and those who don’t.
Basic Technology Requirements
Here are the basic technology requirements for all of my courses:
- Check your St. Edward’s email at least daily.
- Find a storage solution that does not make you depend upon the health of any particular computer.
- Hard drive failure is no longer a valid excuse in most circumstances. I strongly suggest using online services such as Dropbox.com or Google Documents to back up your work. A flash drive is an OK storage solution, but what happens if you lose it? You also have storage space on Box.
- Use Canvas to check your grades, to turn in your assignments and revisions in the appropriate dropboxes, to view Turnitin originality reports, post on discussion boards, and to view my comments on your work, if I use it for that purpose (I might use other tools–I will always tell you whe.
- Assignments, calendars, resource links, etc. are on (or linked from) the appropriate GitHub repository for the particular course.
If a particular course requires additional or different technologies, I will, of course, tell you.
How to Email Your Professor
Laura Portwood-Spacer offers this advice.
Use Clear Subject Lines
If we cannot speak face-to-face (which I prefer), email is by far the best way to reach me with questions. If the question can be answered by email, I will do my best to respond usefully. Emails to me should have a clear, specific subject line related to the topic of that particular email.
Reasonable Response Expectations
I check my email frequently and am very responsive to students, but I sometimes get a chuckle from student emails sent at 2:00 a.m. requesting something by 8:00 a.m. I will strive to respond to your emails within 24 hours.
Don’t Just Hit “Reply” All the Time
Help me find your email. If your current email concerns a different subject than a previous email conversation between us, please use a new subject line rather than just hitting “reply.”
Peer Review Policies
- “Good-faith full drafts” are required, including a draft for me to review while you are working with your peer.
- Everyone acknowledges that your peer review draft is not going to be as polished as the project you turn in for a grade, but peer review cannot proceed meaningfully if you show up with one full paragraph and a bunch of bullet points. Peer review is about reviewing full (albeit in-process) drafts, not about trying to make sense of outlines or notes that the writer has not yet tried to develop and refine.
- To participate in peer review, you must attempt all of the project and bring your best, most complete work at that time to class. You also have to show up on time. I may send you home for that day if you don’t have a good-faith full draft or if you show up late. That means that you won’t get the learning benefit of peer review or the points benefit of participating in the activity.
- I grade you on your peer review of others’ work. My peer review grading specifications are deliberately simple and focus on encouraging students to give useful feedback to one another.
- Peer review is an in-class activity that cannot be made up: “must be present to win.”
No Late Work
- I do not accept late work, except in two cases: 1. your one free late project per semester, 2. genuine emergencies. Please do not treat deadlines as negotiable.
The Only Exception for Late Work: True Emergency
Assuming that you have used your one free 24-hour extension, the sole exception to my no-late-work policy is a true emergency that precludes you from completing your work on time. Emergencies are (by definition) rare, unforeseeable, and highly disruptive.
Planning problems, computer or peripheral problems, work schedules, assignments in other classes, lost items, parking, failure to back up electronic files and keep them available, vacation travel, car maintenance, moving, student government, internships, SxSW, ACL, FunFunFunFest, minor sniffles, co-curricular activities, and other such reasonably controllable and predictable events are probably not excusable emergencies.
True Emergency: What to Do
If you have what you believe is a true emergency that precludes you from turning in your work on time, please contact me right away and explain what the situation is. If I agree that you have an excusable emergency, we will need to agree on a specific plan for you to complete your work and turn it in. You will also need to stay on top of all other course work and deadlines.
The Vexing Subject of Grades
I have made a spreadsheet listing all the grades I have assigned in my time at St. Edward’s (FA 08-present). It is not a guarantee or a prediction of anything, but you might find it worth reviewing.
I use grades to signal to you how you are doing within the expectations of the course and the assignments. My philosophy on grading is this: “I don’t give grades; I just report the news.” While that pithy saying cannot capture all that goes into evaluating your projects, I try to explain the criteria I will use and give you chances to ask questions. I evaluate your performance on the assignment within criteria that (I hope) we both understand. I do not assign grades based on whether I like you, on your potential, your worth as a person, your politics, your GPA, your need or desire for a certain grade, your scholarships, or other extraneous factors. I just evaluate your work for that semester. I don’t invent extra credit activities to help students make up for poor performance on class work.
Grade discussions during the semester: If you believe that my evaluation is wrong or unclear, let’s talk. Please feel free to come see me. I ask that you wait at least 24 hours after you receive a grade to discuss it with me. This gives you a chance to reread your work and my comments. I will only discuss grades in person, face-to-face. Please feel free to visit me during office hours or set up an appointment. I expect you to ask questions if you don’t understand how I will evaluate your performance. Again, the recurring mantra of these policies: ask, ask, ask. Let’s communicate.
Grade discussions after the semester ends: After the term is over and you check your grades, please do not call or e-mail me to discuss your grades. If you want to discuss the course grade you earned in the class, you’ll need to follow these university procedures and deadlines.
Attendance and Promptness
Prompt, consistent attendance is essential to your success in this course. Course material includes discussions, activities, and workshops. I have structured the course to provide strong incentives for coming to class regularly and on time.
“But I Paid a Lot of Money for This Course, So I can Attend or Not as I See Fit!”
Well, I disagree. James Klumpp, a Communications professor at the University of Maryland, puts it best:
If you insist on a business metaphor for your education, the following variation governs: you have not paid for my performance; you have instead entered into a contract with me that says I will teach you … if you will seek to learn. Part of your obligation in that contract is to attend….If I sound like your attendance is important to me, it is. I will put a great deal of effort into teaching this class and expect your effort in return.
I use a sign-in sheet, which will be the only competent evidence of your attendance. Memories and testimonials don’t count. Please get in the habit of coming to class a couple minutes early and signing the sheet.
Don’t sign someone else’s name to the attendance sheet: that’s academic dishonesty.
If you arrive late, I won’t sign your name to the sign-in sheet. You’ll have to do that after class.
Three Free Absences, Max
Think of absences and lateness as rust. Rust can eat right through metal and cause real damage. Similarly, missing class or arriving late eat away at your grade. With that metaphor in mind, here is the attendance policy:
- You may miss a maximum of three class meetings without penalty and with no questions asked. However, you still must turn in your work on time and keep up with the course.
- Each absence after the third might lower your final course grade.
- If you are not prepared for class, and cannot participate meaningfully, I may deem that lack of preparation an absence. Please keep up with the readings and other work.
- If you miss five or more class meetings before the drop deadline, I reserve the right (but do not take on the obligation) to drop you from the course with a grade of “WA.” If you remain on the roster after the drop deadline and “disappear,” you will likely earn a grade of “F.”
- Class starts (and ends) on time. If you have not signed the attendance sheet by the time I begin the class meeting by saying “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” or some such to the class as a whole, you are late. Printer and stapler problems are not excuses to be late.
- Two instances of lateness will be considered an absence.
- Two instances of leaving class early will also be considered an absence.
- Of course, if you have some legitimate reason to be late or leave early once or twice, please tell me and I’ll be reasonable.
NCAA Athletes & Absences
If you are on an official university NCAA athletic team, please see me to discuss any absences for games or matches. The athletics staff can assist you with providing evidence I’ll need (a letter filled out and signed by the coach with specific dates). Regardless of athletic commitments, you will still have to keep up with your work, which will be evaluated by the same standard as any other student’s work.
What to Do if You Miss Class
If you miss a class meeting, please don’t contact me with acts of contrition or excuses. You get three “freebies” that you may use for any purpose.
If you miss class, you are still obligated to prepare for the next class meeting and to turn in your work on time. I suggest making friends with a reliable fellow student who can help you catch up. You may also visit me during office hours or email me for help, but you must take the initiative to catch up. You should be aware that office hours discussions attempting to recap a full class are, at best, pale shadows of the real thing. The mantra: come to class and save your freebie absences for true emergencies.
Quizzes, Peer Review, In-Class Activities: “Must be Present to Win”
These events occur in class and cannot be made up.
My classes start on the first day, not on the day after the late add period ends. If you enrolled late, it’s your responsibility to see me and try to catch up.
I expect all students to participate in the course activities, including keeping up with the readings, participating in discussions, and engaging in writing and feedback processes. Please be ready to be called on. Participation is part of fulfilling a grade contract.
Students consistently tell me that workshop days help them learn while working on major projects. If our class involves workshop activities, please use that time wisely and also feel free to ask me questions. Treating workshop days as blow-off days results in poor performance and missed learning opportunities. I see students every semester who really benefit from workshop days. I also see some, unfortunately, who squander workshop days and harm their performance.
Keeping Class Productive
Your learning is very important, so feel free to ask questions, probe assumptions, interrogate the assignments, and generally take charge of your learning experience. Don’t be shy.
Please, unless you are expecting a crucial call, put your phone on silent (not just vibrate).
Please be mindful of the differences between habits when on your own and when in a classroom setting. When you are on our own, you probably use your computer to combine work and play. I often do the same. In the classroom, though, please use devices for work: don’t play games, use text messaging, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of those activities; I do many of them myself and find them valuable. However, I know when not to do them; you should, too.
When we work on projects in class, you need to work on the project, not on assignments for other courses, or on recreational activities. You may be counted absent if you waste workshop days.
In the words of the St. Edward’s Student Handbook:
St. Edward’s University expects academic honesty from all members of the community, and it is our policy that academic integrity be fostered to the highest degree possible. Consequently, all work submitted for grading in a course must be created as a result of your own thought and effort. Representing work as your own when it is not a result of such thought and effort is a violation of our code of academic integrity.
It should go without saying that all the work you turn in for this course must be your own and that you must acknowledge your intellectual debts. Most student plagiarism is the result of ignorance rather than fraud, but I won’t get involved in post facto mind reading. It’s always best to avoid the problem in the first place. I encourage you to seek help from me and from the Writing Center often. I will also allow you to see the “originality reports” that Turnitin generates. Nobody’s born knowing how to integrate source material into their own work. I will help you, but you have to ask questions and be careful to keep the boundaries between your words and ideas and others’ words and ideas clear, if the assignment calls for it (as most college writing assignments do).
Don’t turn in work that you submitted for a grade in another class without my approval first. I don’t want to stop you from pursuing lines of research across your work, but you’ll have to revisit previous topics in a new, substantially different way to earn credit for continuing to work on them. The rule? See me first.
Student Disability Services coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities (medical, learning, or psychological). Any student who believes that he or she may need an accommodation for a disability should follow the university’s accommodation procedure by contacting Student Disability Services (512-448-8561 or Moody Hall 155).
Please note that I cannot accommodate any disability without a “504 letter,” nor can I accommodate disabilities retroactively. Please get me the 504 letter ASAP. Disability Services will share it with me electronically in a secure system called Box.
Please also remember that a 504 letter entitles you to reasonable accommodations, not to an easier course, less work, or open-ended flexibility. You should read the 504 letter and talk to your counselor for information about your duties and responsibilities, including the duty to communicate with me.
If you are under stress and need to talk to a professional who can help you manage crises in your life, please contact the Health and Counseling Center.
The Writing Center
Use the Writing Center. It’s a great resource, in addition to meetings with me, for improving your writing. The Writing Center is in Munday Library on the second floor.
Make appointments online through the Writing Center website.
University Firearms Policy
As a reminder, the bringing of weapons or firearms of any kind on university premises, including university parking lots, or while conducting university business; and the possession of firearms, is prohibited while on campus and at all campus related activities (except by law enforcement personnel or by others who are storing such in a locked vehicle in full compliance with Section 411.2032 of the Texas Government Code).
Recently, the Texas Legislature approved Senate Bill 11 commonly referred to as “Campus Carry,” which took effect on August 1, 2016 and allows individuals with a concealed handgun license to carry firearms on university campuses. However, private universities may opt out of the bill’s provisions and prohibit licensed holders from carrying handguns on the university campus. St. Edward’s University intends to follow the process, prescribed by law, to opt out and will continue to prohibit weapons or firearms on campus or campus-related activities at all times. Please contact the Dean of Students or the Office of Human Resources if you have questions or concerns.