What you really miss on the first day

Photo by Brenda Lin

Syllabus day, which often extends into syllabus week, is seen  by many as the most pointless use of time over the entire school year. Professors waste hours going over the syllabus, poring over each detail. Of course, each of these lectures begins with the same, ridiculously infuriating comment.

“This won’t take long.”

Right. Of course it won’t take long. You believed this lie, of course, for the first few days…of middle school. You stared into your teacher’s eyes as he patronizingly said, “I hope I don’t have to read this for you,” before he proceeded to read it anyway.

Over six years later, you are still stuck in the exact same place. Such is life.

Only now, you have the distinct privilege of paying hundreds of dollars to attend this class.

Five minutes pass. He’s still reading the class objectives. You updated your Facebook status three minutes ago.

Five more minutes pass. The professor has spent thirty seconds of silence adding up the grading breakdown percentages, only to realize that the maximum possible grade in the class is a 70, but students need a 90 or above to get an A.

Whatever; this is Georgia Tech, you can do that.

This fiasco inevitably leads to the climax of syllabus day: going over the Honor Code. The professor scrolls down, inadvertently creating mood lighting by displaying a torrent of text on the projector. He then proceeds to give an anti-cheating lecture so melodramatic that you feel guilty for even  being a student.

After everything, what’s the point of even attending this first day? Are you really at a disadvantage when you miss the first day of class? Is it really so bad if, instead of hearing the Honor Code read to you for the eighteenth time, you decide to finally complete the campaign challenges on Batman: Arkham City? If time is money, would not you be able to use the time you gained from skipping syllabus day to help pay off student loans? That’s how finance works, right?

The answer is yes.

In reality, skipping the first two days of class yields a sobering amount of insight into the frankly ridiculous tradition of syllabus day.

Walking into a class on the second day without any idea of what happened on day one had absolutely no effect on the difficulty of adjusting to the professor, the workload, or the class.

In one case, skipping the first day turned out to be a good decision; the professor never actually showed up to lecture and later emailed the class, explaining that he had “car trouble.”

Another professor, deciding that the syllabus was important enough to merit spending two days on it, began reading the course objectives word-for-word.

None of the professors covered difficult or significant material on the first day of class.

The professors that did eventually make it to a lecture simply reviewed material from the course prerequisites or simply asked students if and why they were interested in the course material.

It comes as no surprise that skipping syllabus day had no negative repercussions. In fact, it was a relief not listening to the same message reiterated several times over the course of two days. Returning to class once actual material was being covered proved to be refreshing and, above all, more productive.

So go ahead; skip the first day or two of class. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?