Attendance and Class Participation

• As you can see from this course’s “Grading Policy” (which is presented on the syllabus), class participation will be a major component of your grade. In some classes, you can earn a perfectly respectable grade by doing the written work, writing the term papers and taking the exams, even if you never attend class at all. This is not one of those classes! In order to do well in this course, you’ll need to attend class regularly, and you’ll need to be an active participant. (In cases of extremely bad weather, the college occasionally closes. Closing information is broadcast on local television stations, or you can call NOVA’s emergency closing number. If the college is open, then class will be held as scheduled. If you’re concerned about the road conditions, then you should leave for school earlier than usual in order to arrive on campus on time for class and please drive carefully! Also, please note that car trouble, “I forgot to set my alarm,” “my ride never picked me up” and similar excuses don’t in fact excuse you from class expectations. Think of this class as a job you applied for and were hired to do. If you don’t show up for work, don’t expect to get paid!)

• This is college, not high school, which means that attendance is optional, not required. However, you should recognize that participation is graded every day, and that there’s no way for you to participate when you’re not here! This, therefore, is not a good class to skip. If you know that you’ll have to miss some classes — because you have a vacation planned, because you have a job which may require you to work during class times, because you’re concerned about child-care issues or traffic or the weather or the roadworthiness of your car — this may not be the best semester for you to be enrolled in this course. If you are ever absent, you are required to contact me by 9 PM on the day of the absence (as specified on the syllabus). If you make contact as instructed, I may be willing to accept your homework late. If you fail to make contact, late assignments will not be accepted. Find out from this website or a classmate — not by asking me! — what you’ve missed. If you have a headache, you have my permission to bring it to class with you.

• It’s always better to arrive late (or leave early) than not to show up at all. Please enter and leave quietly, please turn off your cell phone and unzip your book bag before you come in, and please don’t take up class time by apologizing. You don’t need my permission to leave the room. Just be aware that, whenever you’re not here, you’re not participating.

• Some people simply don’t like speaking aloud in class. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with feeling that way. However, keep in mind that some people simply don’t like doing math problems, either. If they sign up for a math class, though, and if they care about what grade they earn, then they’re going to do the math problems whether they like doing them or not. This isn’t a math class, so I won’t ask you to do math problems. It is, however, a class about the art of communication — so perhaps you should consider participation to be one of your class’ communication problems.

• In my opinion, there are three basic levels of participation:

• Being in the room. If you’re absent, you’re not participating. If you’re late, you’re not participating. If you leave the room before class ends, you’re not participating.

• Being focused and attentive, not disruptive. If you’re snoring, you’re not participating. If you’re doodling, you’re not participating. If you’re conversing with the person sitting next to you, you’re not participating. If you’re treating your classmates (or me) with disrespect, you’re not participating. If you’re blowing bubbles with your gum, if your cell phone rings, if you’re clicking your pen or tapping it on your desktop, you’re distracting me and your classmates — and, you guessed it, that’s not what I’d call participating.

• Using your voice to (1) ask questions, (2) answer my questions, (3) engage in group discussion of the issues at hand.

• I welcome your questions. Generally, the way to ask me a question is to raise your hand and wait till I call on you. I will recognize you as quickly as possible. Often, that’ll mean immediately. Sometimes, I may ask you to wait a bit while something else finishes happening. In my opinion, the only “dumb” questions are the ones you’d like to hear an answer to but don’t ask. Be aware that I may choose not to answer questions about material which was covered during your absence. If you ask about something which was covered while you were in the room, though, I’ll be happy to go back over the material — as many times as is necessary.

• In some classes, the instructor asks questions in order to embarass you. That’s not my style. I ask questions because this is a communication class, and I want you to have every possible opportunity to participate. Many of the questions I ask don’t have right or wrong answers, anyway — I ask them in order to give you a chance to think out loud. Even when a question does have a correct answer, you will receive exactly as much participation credit for a wrong answer as you would have gotten for a right one — and, in both cases, that’ll be more than you’ll get for knowing the right answer but remaining silent. (You will receive no credit for blurting out “I knew that!” after I present or one of your classmates presents the correct answer!)

• This is a class, not a race, and part of my responsibility is to ensure that every student receives a fair chance to do well, even the slower ones. For that reason, I may ask you to raise your hand before speaking. If I ask a question which has a correct answer and you raise your hand, but I call on someone else and that person answers correctly, you won’t get called on. You’ll receive the same amount of participation credit as the person who answered, though, just for raising your hand! So here’s a tip: raise your hand every time I ask a question, whether or not you know the answer! If I call on you and you don't know the answer, guess — remember, you’ll get the same amount of credit for a wrong answer as for a correct one! Be aware that, if you do this, other people may have an opinion of you. So what? Which are you interested in: other people’s opinions of you, or the grade you earn in this course? If you’re interested in other people’s opinions, only speak when you have something like totally cool to say. If you’re interested in raising your grade, though, then raise your hand!

• If you have a question or a comment, please address it to me, not to the person sitting beside you. If you raise your hand and wait to be acknowledged, you’re participating. If you ask a question of or make a comment to the person sitting next to you, you’re interrupting — and that’s nonparticipatory. Please don’t interrupt!

• Your participation will be graded twice, once at midsemester and once at the end of the term. If you’d like more frequent information than that about how you’re doing in terms of participation, please don’t hesitate to ask me!

• If you miss a class session, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed, to make arrangements to have your homework turned in on time, and to get all information needed in order to do new assignments. Please don’t ask me to reteach or summarize things that happened in class during your absence. My job is to present the class material once, and your job is to be there when the material is presented. Don’t ask me to do more work because you failed to do your work. Instead you should trade phone numbers and/or email addresses with several of your classmates at the beginning of the semester and contact those people to find out what you missed.

• Like it says on the bumper stickers, “Stuff Happens.” (I know that the bumper stickers don’t actually use the word “stuff,” but I do.) Even students with the very best intentions sometimes have to miss a class session or two. Keep in mind that every session you miss is a session for which you will earn no participation credit. If you miss two entire weeks of class, I will begin to question your seriousness as a student. For each additional absence after you’ve missed two weeks of the term, I reserve the right to subtract points from your grade up to 5 points per additional absence if your section meets twice a week, or up to 10 points per additional absence if your section meets once a week. If you have failed to contact me by 9 PM on the day of any of your absences, then I certainly will subtract points for each additional absence after two weeks. If you’ve been responsible about contacting me, if you’ve been responsible about turning assignments in on time and following the assignment instructions, if you’ve shown me that you are in fact a serious student, then I may at my discretion decide not to subtract the full number of points for additional absences beyond the first two weeks of absence. If this seems complicated to you, here’s the simple version: Don’t skip class!


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