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:


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.”

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