My Shadow Syllabus « Bill and Dave's Cocktail Hour

Guest contributor: Sonya Huber

My Shadow Syllabus

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns

2 comments


  1. I’ll tell you exactly how to get an A, but you’ll have a hard time hearing me.
  2. I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  3. Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.
  4. I had bookmarked a citation for that fact, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
  5. The only way to seek knowledge is to open your hands and let your opinions drop, but that requires even more fear.
  6. The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled.
  7. I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about.
  8. I desperately needed A’s when I was in college because I didn’t know what else I was besides an A.
  9. Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.”
  10. “The real world” isn’t the real world.
  11. I realize that I, as the authority figure in this room, might trigger all kinds of authority issues you have. Welcome to work and the rest of your life.
  12. I have a problem with authority figures myself, but I’ve learned how to work with it. Watch my cues.
  13. I think I have more to teach you about navigation than about commas, although I’m good at commas.
  14. This is about commas, but it is also about pauses and breaths and ways to find moments of rest in the blur of life’s machinery.
  15. I hope we can make eye contact.
  16. One of you who is filled with hate for this class right now will end up loving it by the end.
  17. One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite.
  18. One of you will drive me bat-shit crazy and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  19. Later I will examine the reason you drive me bat-shit crazy and be ashamed and then try to figure out my own limitations.
  20. There will always be limitations, and without my students I wouldn’t see them as easily.
  21. Sometimes I will be annoyed, sarcastic, rushed, or sad; often this is because you are not doing the readings or trying to bullshit me.
  22. Students are surprised by this fact: I really really really want you to learn. Like, that’s my THING. Really really a lot.
  23. I love teaching because it is hard.
  24. Sonya Huber

    Someone in this classroom will be responsible for annoying the hell out of you this semester, and it won’t be me.

  25. Maybe it will be me. Sometimes it is, but often it is not.
  26. I won’t hold it against you unless you treat me with disrespect.
  27. You should rethink how you treat the people who bring you food at McDonald’s, if you are this person, as well as how you treat your teachers.
  28. I hope you are able to drop the pose of being a professional person and just settle for being a person.
  29. Everyone sees you texting. It’s awkward, every time, for everyone in the room.
  30. Secret: I’ve texted in meetings when I shouldn’t have and I regret it.
  31. Secret: I get nervous before each class because I want to do well.
  32. Secret: when I over-plan my lessons, less learning happens.
  33. Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.
  34. Secret: It’s hard to figure out whether to be a cop or a third-grade teacher. I have to be both. I want to be Willie Wonka. That’s the ticket. Unpredictable, not always nice, high standards, and sometimes candy.
  35. What looks like candy can be dangerous.
  36. Secret: Every single one of your professors and teachers has been at a point of crisis in their lives where they had no idea what the fuck to do.
  37. Come talk to me in my office hours, but not to spin some thin line of bullshit, because believe it or not, I can see through it like a windowpane.
  38. Some of you will lose this piece of paper because you’ve had other people to smooth out your papers and empty your backpack for as long as you can remember, but that all ends here. There’s no one to empty your backpack. That’s why college is great and scary.
  39. Maybe there’s never been anyone to empty your backpack. If there hasn’t been, you will have a harder time feeling entitled to come talk to me or ask for help.
  40. I want you, especially, to come talk to me.
  41. You can swear in my classroom.
  42. Welcome. Welcome to this strange box with chairs in it. I hope you laugh and surprise yourself

 

Sonya Huber is the author of two books: Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir , and Opa Nobody, both from the University of Nebraska Press.   She’s also the author of The Backwards Research Guide for Writers.   Sonya has worked as a waitress, an artist’s model, a trash collector, gardener, nanny, dishwasher,video store clerk, researcher for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, canvassing staff for an environmental organization, labor-community coalition organizer, receptionist, mental health counselor, overnight security staff in a mental health center, nonprofit project manager, editor, associate publisher, reporter, medical proofreader, writing instructor for engineering students, adviser to a student newspaper, and finally a professor. She is a big fan of: the Chicago White Sox, her cool son, trips by plane, train and car, coffee, and reading too much too late at night. She is not so great at: cooking and cleaning, video games, saying “no,” among many other things

 



  1. Debora writes:

    6 and 7, exactly.

    8–quite interesting, and I think close to the truth for me too. Must say, though, that the problem with kids today (haha, it’s my turn to use the phrase and set the eyes of youth to rolling) too many of them don’t know what an A is and don’t believe that is what they are and must be–because why settle for less and our world can’t really afford you to…

    As for the remaining, Exactly! and Right On! and Your Students are SO SO Lucky!

  2. malcolm bates writes:

    Wonderful, just wonderful. I am passing this list on to my peers at Valley View Middle School. My 8th graders need to hear this, minus the fucks and bullshits, although they would be shocked and awed to hear those words escape my lips, and and on rare occasions they do; shock and awe ensues. Thanks again.