The Only Guide to Class Syllabi that You’ll Ever Need

An Old Syllabus from the 1400sBecause school is a cycle of never-ending work, you know that finals (AHHH!), or Rowndiau Terfynol, don’t mean you’ve finally reached the end.

You can think of it this way: every semester, you learn a little more, which you are then tested on in the final. Finals are also cumulative (for instance, you need 4th grade math, such as addition, to be able to do well on your high school math finals). Therefore, every finals test week is harder than the one before.

It becomes an unfathomable amount of material, to the point where you know enough information about science, math, English, and history that you can answer any question asked about these things. Your answer is almost always correct (meaning factual), as you reply: “Oh yeah. I remember now. We definitely learned that. But I forgot it.”

You would think this sheer amount of information would become impossible to learn, but just as you reach that point, you get spit out into the real world, where you don’t need any of the information you stuffed your brain with. Then you can answer any questions with: “What do you think I am? A student? I don’t need to know that in the real world.” (This particular example being a response to: what will you bring to our company?).

However, in high school, the days after mid-year finals bring a few new classes. In these classes, after you’ve determined how un-cool everybody else in the class is, you will be handed something called a “Syllabus” from the teacher.

The word “syllabus” originated in 1957, when one teacher, frustrated by constantly having to explain her policies, passed out a sheet of paper with her policies on them. Her students, of course, thought this was a ridiculous idea at the time, and called that teacher a “Silly Bus” behind her back (1957 slang meaning something like a clown, dork, or dweeb. This phrase is considered to have given birth to the current phrase “Silly Goose,” because the old phrase was not environmentally friendly enough to make it in the 2000s-buses pollute).

Now, though, you probably could care less about the name of the paper your teacher just handed you, and more about what the paper actually means. Here’s how you should decipher it:

Headings

Most syllabi are organized by heading to make them easier to decipher. Scan all of the headings immediately to make sure there is nothing too unnerving. For instance, it might go: Academic Expectations, Late Work Policies, Situations Involving the Guillotine, etc. You should be immediately alarmed and worried. I mean, academic expectations? You have to be academic? Maybe there was some mistake.

Grading Scale

Teachers often put their grading scale on the back of the syllabus. It usually has a bunch of percentage intervals and the letter grade they correspond to, such as “90-100%=A.” You need to study this carefully, and then figure out what grades you will need to spell out your name on your report card at the end of the year. If your name is Zeezee, than you’ve got an easy semester, as opposed to someone named Aaron.

Contact Information

Your teachers probably also put a way to contact them on the syllabus, whether by email, phone, or the times they are available at school. This contact information is vital. You need to commit it to memory and know it as well as your own. Then, the next time someone you dislike asks you for your contact info, you can give them the teacher’s instead.

Look for Small Print

Some teachers have had minor legal training, or may be related to lawyers of some kind. Just to be safe, you should read the whole syllabus, checking for any unusual demands. If you see something like: “Students shall then place their unmarked paper bags containing well-circulated twenty-dollar bills next to the statue between one and two AM on the first Friday of every month,” you should be slightly concerned. Before signing the bottom, check with your teacher to figure out how much money you’ll need to leave if you only want a letter grade that is present in your name, and not just an A.

Take Advantage of the Loopholes

Teachers have gotten pretty slick with their syllabi, often including all possible offenses under “Students may NOT:”, including chewing gum, arriving late, sleeping or eating in class, using your phone, and building a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of the staples and tape present on the teacher’s desk.

However, this often leaves a lot of room for possible liberties of the students. For example, you can ‘taste,’ gum, just not chew it (so you can leave it in your mouth and chew it when the teacher isn’t looking). You can use someone else’s phone, just not your own. You can build a scale model of the Empire State building, just not the Eiffel Tower. You can even build a scale model of the Eiffel Tower using just tacks and paperclips from the teacher’s desk.

While there may be other things present on the syllabus, these are all of the major points. I just hope no teachers read this blog, or you/I might end up with a syllabus so teen-proof, so strict, and so all-around solid that when we are asked “What will you bring to our company?” we reply “I may not speak out of turn.”

In the Spirit of Finals, another Quiz

Those of you who have read this blog since June (or even before that) may know that there used to be quizzes present (but they were ‘lost’ in translation, in terms of code, when we switched to wordpress). Well, in the spirit of finals/midterms (which also allowed me to have enough time to do this, now that they are over), I have fixed the quiz entitled “How Many Hours would you last during High School Finals?” Click the link to take the quiz.

If you like the quiz, or the idea of quizzes, let me know, and you could see a few more in the future. Otherwise, don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regular posting schedule soon.

5 Reasons to Stress about 1 Word (Finals)

Finals TestGive me an F! Give me an I! Give me a Nals! What does that spell! No, seriously, what does that spell? You’ve got an F, an I, and a Nals; that spells “is flan,” right? That’s the dessert that looks like plain yogurt but tastes better than gum, I think.

Actually, it spells Finals. AAAAAAAHHHHH! Sorry, that was an involuntary reaction to the word “fina-“ AAAAHHHH! Hold on one second…okay, sorry, that was an involuntary reaction to the word(s) “Rowndiau Terfynol” (Welsh).  Oh, good, problem solved.

“Rowndiau Terfynol,” or RT for short, are incredibly stressful.  You know this.  I know this.   I’m sure that at one point, even the teachers knew this (although they forgot in a forced process of memory regression during teaching school, using electroshock therapy.  I mean, after what you’ve been through in high school so far, could you live with yourself as a person knowing that you’d just ruined the valuable procrastination time of your students by assigning, well, anything that takes more time to complete than 1+0?).

RT are so stressful that they produce an involuntary nervous reaction from myself, even when I am writing.  I bet the same happens to you when RT is mentioned, along with dizzyness, headache, shortened breathing, increased heartrate, nausea, and seeing everything around you, not just movies, in 3-D (in severe instances). Watch: Finals.  AAAAHHHHH! [Pause] (I’ll wait for your heart to get back in your chest from your neighbor’s yard before moving on).

The question, then, is where does the stress come from? In many instances, unless the final is more than 25% of your overall grade, the impact/change RT will have will be minimal (unless you have a borderline grade). Well…

You Could Choke

No, I don’t mean choke, as in blockage of your windpipe leading to suffocation.  You should worry about that at least every other day, not just RT week.  No, I’m talking about messing up to an extreme degree.  What if, for some reason, you got an impossibly low grade, like a 12%? That would affect even non-borderline grades. What if you accidentally fill in all of the wrong answers? What if your brain wakes up and decides to work only in French?

You Could Bore Yourself to Death

This is very real, and it accounts for many deaths in the lawer’s-really-small-print-writing industry.  What if your finals were going along fine, but then, due to having to answer six consecutive questions about the biodiversity of the average Florida swamp alligator population, you keel over, dead at your desk? Nobody would probably notice, as they’d all be absorbed in their own tests, or possibly also dead from boredom.  The teacher would just assume you’d fallen asleep, and, when he realized that you were no longer amongst the ‘biodiverse’ living, would feed you to his pet alligator.

You Could Get Subjects Mixed Up

You studied a ton for these tests, not only re-reading every passage in all 7 of your various textbooks but also by emailing the authors about finding even more information. But what if you’ve studied too much? What if you are asked a question about the US Constitution, and you try to take the sine and cosine of the Constitution? Anything’s possible, of course; I mean, we’ve managed to put a man on the moon, for crying out loud (bonus: does anyone know if he came back, or if he is still up there, being full-body searched by the TSA before he can get on his rocket back to Earth?)

You Could Experience Technical Difficulties

By technical difficulties, I mean pencil problems.  With today’s advanced consumer-electronics-style pencil industry, a billion to a billion-trillion things can go wrong.  You could run out of lead for a mechanical pencil.

Your lead could break, and the pencil sharpener doesn’t work. Your pencil might not be #2 (for scanned multiple-choice forms). Your pencil could get nervous and forget how to write under the high-pressure of RT. Your pencil’s lifetime warranty could expire, and you (stupidly) didn’t buy the $300 extended protection program. You could forget a pencil, and have to write using the various substances present in your lunchbox.  Literally billions of things-I’m not kidding.

You Could Forget to Look where You Walk

Since it’s TR week, you need to study as much as possible for as long as possible.  This means that many intelligent teens, yourself probably included, walk the halls between classes with their head in a textbook or study-guide. This means that you aren’t watching where you step.  This is just asking for something bad to happen.

What if you walked into somebody else? Awkward, of course.  What if you fell down a flight of stairs? What if you walked right out a window? Forgot to stop at your classroom and walked all the way to hostile territory in Iran or Syria? Sure, these things are bad, but we all know the biggest, and most prominent danger of forgetting to watch where you step: you could step in the dog-doo that magically appears if you take your eyes from in front of you for even three seconds.

That, dear readers, right there is five, and just five, of the million reasons for stress during TR week.  But you won’t go back and re-count them, checking to see if there are really are 5, of course, so I could tell you that I really included all million reasons. You’d just have to take my word for it, because you are too busy studying for finals-AAAAAAHHHHHH!-I mean, studying for Rowndiau Terfynol.

5 Tips for Interpreting Maps for History Class

A funny mapWhen I say history, most people think of long, stuffy, dull lectures by historians, or maybe long, stuffy, dull reading sessions with a book that has a lot of ‘useful’ information (such as this tidbit from my history book: “To what extent could the home government refashion the empire and reassert its power while limiting the authority of colonial legislatures and their elected representatives?” Yes, you need to breathe at least three times if you read that sentence out loud or you risk suffocating).

I’m not here to just say things and tell you what most people think, though (you can use Facebook for that; try the question: “What do u guys think bout when i say litteerature?).  However, there is an important aspect of history that I think most people tend to forget. No, I’m not talking about the aliens that built the great pyramids; I’m talking about: maps.

Yes, maps, a vital part of every history textbook. Vital because without maps, every page is filled completely with text, meaning you have to read twice as much.  I mean, nobody ever stops to look at the maps, aside to check and see if they can see their own house on them, or at least their neighborhood.

Maps in your textbook, though, are unimportant; you can check them out or you can ignore them, and nothing about history will change. It’s not as if, by not looking at the map of Columbus’ route, he won’t get to the new world.  That stuff only happens “real-life” TV shows.

You can get a good idea of just how valuable maps really are to your education by reversing the letters.  You get the word “spam.” So, maps are about as educational as SPAM is nutritional.  Or, maps are as educational as spam e-mails are welcome. Or even that maps are as educational as spam emails advertising SPAM are ironic.

But let’s say you’re in class, and your teacher asks you to interpret a map.  Maybe it’s even during at test. What are you supposed to do?

1) Locate Water

Most maps have either lakes or oceans on them. If the map is black and white, then you should figure out what is water and what is land.  A good rule of thumb is: look for Italy, shaped like a boot. Anything attached to Italy is land. If Italy is not on the map, then you’ve at least got a 50-50 chance of getting it right.

2) Look for a Compass

All well-made maps have a directional indicator known as a “compass rose.” You can find it by sniffing your map and looking in the direction the flower smell is coming from.  Then, make sure the letter “N,” which stands for Never (as in Never Eat Soggy Waffles), is on the top.

3) Look for a Key

The map key is also very important.  It usually tells you what certain symbols mean on the map.  On grainy, black and white maps, this is utterly useless, but the text might help you begin to understand what the map is about. If it says something like “marks spot of major battles,” then you know the map illustrates one of the 3,826 wars that have occurred in history.

4) Interpret Lines

Often, a map will have arrows or lines drawn on it.  This either means that the school copier is acting up again, or that these lines have ‘historical significance.’ If you can’t get any clues from the key, assume that these arrows are sort of like Google Maps; they give you directions from one place to another, with alternate routes.  The dates on the lines are probably just estimated time of route, so if it is something like 1863-1865, know that, in 1863, it would take two years to walk the route of the line.

5) Do Origami

If you have tried all of these things and still can’t make sense of your map, you should fold it into a complex origami creation.  Not only is this more visually pleasing, this also might help you.  In folding your map, certain connections of folded edges will come together.  In creating these modifications, you might create a recognizable Italy.  Then, you could re-try to interpret your map.

I am confident that if you do these things, your map-test grades will dramatically change.  Not necessarily for the better.  But in the end, it’s who has the most fun, and let’s face it: getting an ‘F’ is certainly not fun (although you can’t have ‘Fun’ without an ‘F’).