Expectations for Seniors

This will be a seminar-style class where all members of the classroom, both the instructor and the students, take a shared responsibility for teaching and learning. This type of class is unconventional for high school, but it’s common in upper-division (i.e., junior and senior) college-level courses.  Participating in a seminar can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have in school; however, much of its success depends on what you bring to class every day. Be prepared: I set high standards for seniors, and I will hold you to them.


Before and After Class.   

Come to class ready to contribute to the day’s discussion or activity. This means actively reading the assigned texts, answering study questions (if assigned), and writing down any reactions or questions you had while reading. It’s also important that you review your notes. Make sure your notes are free of errors or significant gaps. Additionally, write down questions about the material we’ve already discussed, and then be prepared to ask those questions during class discussion.


During Class.   

During class discussion I expect all students to take an active leadership role. So, what does active participation actually look like? Here are some examples:


  • Direct our attention to a specific passage in the text that indicates the author’s main idea, or which helps us better understand what the author is saying.

  • Agree or disagree with an author or your classmates—or even your teacher!

  • Ask a classmate or your teacher to clarify their comment.

  • Ask an evaluative question about the view of human life under discussion.

  • Refocus the conversation by summarizing or paraphrasing where the discussion has been so far.


Of course, there are other ways to participate in class. But regardless of how you participate, I expect you to actively listen to what your classmates say. A good rule of thumb is to restate what someone has said before responding or moving on to a different point.


Success in a seminar-style class also depends on your ability to take thorough notes. Good notes record and neatly organize all of the main ideas from a given class session. Since I expect you and your classmates to do most of the talking, anything your classmates say could be of importance. Don’t just write down what I say!


Additional Expectations:

When you cross the threshold of my classroom door, you enter a community of teachers and learners.  In order to prevent disruptions I keep the door locked, so make sure you arrive on time.  Consistent lateness will lower your class participation grade. 


To minimize distractions, no cell phones, tablets, or personal computers may be used during class.  Exceptions to this rule will be made at the teacher’s discretion. 


I’m fine with you eating or drinking in my classroom so long as it doesn’t distract you or your classmates, and so long as you tidy up when you are done. Note that this privilege will be revoked in all of my classes the minute any student leaves trash in my room or fails to clean up their mess.  Don’t let this be you!

Course Policies

Review the following policies and procedures carefully, as they not only explain how this class will be run, but also articulate my expectations for you this year.


(1) Absences and Late Work. 

YYou are responsible for completing all assigned work for this course. If you are absent, consult the course’s online calendar and/or get in touch with a friend to see what you must make-up. Make-ups for exams, essays, and seminars given in class are only granted for excused absences. Please note that if you fail to show up for the make-up exam, you will not be able to re-schedule and you will not receive credit.


When turning in late or absent work you must fill out a Late Work Form (found in my classroom by the black-wire bin) and attach it on top of your late or absent work. Late work can only be submitted within one week after the due date. This does not mean you will be excused for the tardiness of your work; the grade for all late work is dropped by one full letter (10%) from what it would have earned. Note that work submitted without this form will not receive credit.



(2) Feedback.

Success in this class will depend on your ability to receive and act upon feedback from your classmates and from me.  Independent and critical thinkers must also be able to reflect and give themselves feedback. I will provide numerous opportunities for you to receive feedback over the course of the semester. Due to time constraints, however, I will not give substantial feedback on late work. You are welcome to see me during office hours to discuss your performance on these assessments.

(3) Cheating and Plagiarism. 

Learning is a shared activity, and during class discussions I encourage you to record each other’s ideas and use them in your writing. That said, I do not tolerate academic dishonesty. Any student caught cheating or found guilty of plagiarism will receive a fail for the assignment with no possibility for make-up, as well as a drop in their final grade. Bottom line: don’t do it.



(4) Work Habits and Cooperation.

Work habits grades are based on consistently coming to class prepared and on time, as well as consistently turning in assignments and essays by the due date. Cooperation grades are based on your conduct in class. Violations of the policies and procedures outlined in this syllabus, as will any display of extremely rude or disrespectful behavior, will result in lowered work habits and corporation grades. Please note: I will not write letters of recommendation for any senior who has earned a U in cooperation in my classes.



(5) Grades.

For this class, assignments are approximately weighted according to the following categories:

  • Essays and Exams = 40%

  • Socratic Seminars and Projects = 35%

  • Short Writing Assignments = 10%

  • Active Reading and Notes = 10%

  • Participation = 5%

Grades for individual assignments are weighted such that assignments given towards the end of a unit count more than assignments given at the beginning. This is because I do not expect you to master the skills and content at the beginning of the year, or even at the beginning of a new unit. However, I do expect that you continuously push yourself. Slacking off will only lower your grade.


Minor assignments are graded using a check system that is then converted into points. The specific number of points depends on the assignment, but the grade breakdown is roughly as follows:


√+ = 95%               √+/√ = 90%              √ = 85%               √/√- = 75%           √- = 65%


Major assignments (e.g., essays, projects, and exams) are given letter grades, which are then converted into points depending on the assignment.  Letter grades adhere to the following scale:


  A+ = 97%              B+ = 87%                C+ = 77%                D+  = 67%

A   = 95%              B   = 85%                C  = 75%                  D  = 65%

 A-  = 93%              B-  = 83%                C-   = 73%                D-  = 63%

Fail =  50%


Final semester grades adhere to the following scale: (note that grades are never rounded):


A = 90-100%          B = 80-89%          C = 70-79%          D = 60-69%          F = below 60%



(6) Communication.

Please note that while I always respond to emails, I rarely check them after 7pm, so please allow for up to 36 hours for a response, especially on weekends. Emails inquiring about specific grades are never answered; schedule a meeting or see me during office hours to discuss your performance on a specific assignment.