On the Syllabus

by samdelbiaggio

In the next few weeks I plan on putting together the rough drafts of Syllabi for the classes I might be teaching in a year.  I have always found the range of classes that the state of Oregon says I can teach to be a little absurd.  I understand why I would be credentialed to teach history, but, economics, psychology, and civics?  I am not saying that I do not want to teach these subjects because I do.  I think it odd, and a bit overwhelming to say I am just as qualified to teach economics as European history.  So, back to the topic of the syllabus, I used to be of the opinion that they were little more than the place teachers put their rules for the classroom.  Nothing wrong with that.

However, as the day I get a real job as a teacher looms on the horizon and the anxiety of  teaching classes I am not fully prepared for sets in, I realized that I need a plan.  As I reviewed the pile of notes collected while getting my degree in history, I understood that the syllabus is indeed more than I imagined.

The syllabus is a road map.  It is a battle plan, if you will.  United States history is not an amorphous blob, it follows a narrative arc.  Yea, I know this is really obvious.  However, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture.  When studying history, it is easy to jump from place to place and time to time.  Today I might be studying Athens of Herodotus and Socrates.  Tomorrow, I could be writing about George Washington, without so much as a thought to the leap in time and place.  To most people this is as disorienting as teleporting from New York City to Tokyo.  It is essential that teachers remind themselves that most students need a moment to reorient themselves.  They need a map, they need a syllabus that acts like a guide for the trip through time.

Like going on a road trip, I can alter the path as I go but it helps to have a general direction and sense of destination.  Thus, we get back to the syllabus.  It is not set in stone.  It is a guide.  So, as I compile the rough drafts of syllabi for the various disciplines that get assigned to social studies teachers, it is with this in mind.  I feel more qualified already.