Syllabus week at Winona State provides daily drill


Hannah Jones/Winonan

Last week, the fall semester ushered in the beginning of another school year at Winona State.

We know this first-week period as that festive time of year where the weather begins to change from stiflingly hot to stiflingly hot and also windy. Within weeks, as the course load increases, we will be treated to one of nature’s finest displays as the freshmen begin to turn colors. Before any of that happens, however, we must go once again through the traditionally choreographed first week of classes.

Regardless of whether you’re sitting in the SLC lecture hall or in the bottom floor of Minné, this routine will play out roughly the same way.

The first day in any classroom adheres to a rigidly scripted pattern. Some may contend that sitting through virtually the same class six times in two days is a waste of time, but I like to show up to every one of them anyway. It’s like watching Frosty the Snowman on ABC at Christmastime. You may know every millisecond of that film, but you watch it anyway, because it’s an irreplaceable part of the season. Likewise, I can recite the average first class period by rote. If you will allow me, here’s a rough rendition:

You enter the classroom, and immediately make a beeline for your favorite region of the space. More reserved students will silently stare one another down until the favored six claim coveted spots in the very back of the classroom. Aggressively ambitious students, on the other hand, will actually shank one another with their pre-sharpened pencils for the six front-row seats. Once everyone is situated and the bleeding somewhat manageable, the professor will enter. This will typically occur about ten minutes after the class’s appointed start time.

The professor will tell you his or her name, which you will immediately forget until you have to put it in the upper left-hand corner of your writing assignment. Then, he or she will commence to take attendance, and will mispronounce your name approximately five times. (This can be expected to reoccur at the beginning of every class period for at least three weeks.) Once everyone is accounted for and six people have left after realizing they came to the wrong class, it’s time for the main event: the syllabus.

Now, we’re all in college, which means we’ve all had at least twelve years of school prior to coming to Winona State, not to mention years of practice with Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane; it can be assumed, generally, that all of us know how to read at this point. Nonetheless, the professor will commence to read aloud, verbatim, every single sentence of his or her syllabus after handing you your printed copy. The usual rules will reappear:

-Assignments must be turned in with the student’s name, e-mail, blood type, hair sample, and weight, rounded to the nearest hundredth.

-Tardiness will result in a loss of 50 points. Three unexplained absences will result in five years as a prisoner in Siberia. Students who commit plagiarism will be exiled.

-Send any and all questions about the course to me via e-mail, unless I am busy or the question is stupid.

After that, it will be about five minutes after the class’s appointed end time, and the professor will ask if anyone has any questions. Usually no one does, and we take the phrase as a benediction, beginning to noisily pack up our stuff. As we exit the room, the professor will remember something of invaluable importance and shout it over the bustle, and nobody will hear it.

This routine is so familiar to me, I could recite it in my sleep, and yet it leaves me each time with the same glimmer of anticipation. The first day of class, like a ceremonial rite, merely signals a fresh new fall term just ahead. At this point, the semester is still raw, untapped, full of opportunities, potential, mystery. Anything could happen: new friendships, academic epiphanies, exile— anything.

Welcome, everyone, to another great semester at Winona State!

Contact Hannah at [email protected]