April 11, 2012

Planning around flunk

For students, Flunk Day is a relaxing day off, but for professors, it can severely mess up a syllabus.
Since professors do not know when Flunk Day is, they have two choices: scheduling a free day in case Flunk Day falls during class or barreling along as if Flunk Day does not exist.
“I don’t know when it is, so I don’t plan on it being different,” philosophy professor Lance Factor said. Since he chooses not to change his schedule to accommodate Flunk Day, Factor’s classes are disrupted when Flunk Day arrives.
According to Factor, “class schedules set up a rhythm of learning, a pattern of expectations” and Flunk Day breaks this pattern. Even if Flunk Day does not fall on one of Factor’s teaching days, he still considers the next day a “lost day” because lackluster participation hurts his discussion-heavy classes.
Visiting Professor of Philosophy Brandon Polite’s Flunk Day strategy is completely different . He leaves a free day at the end of the term to make sure Flunk Day does not interfere with his schedule — a lesson learned after his first year.
If Flunk Day does not fall on one of his class days, Polite says it is easy enough to use the free day of discussion to wrap up the class at the end of the term.
Polite does not have a problem with post-Flunk class participation. On the day after Flunk Day, Polite shifts his class style from discussion to lectures. Although he must admit that teaching morning classes on the morning after Flunk Day is “a stretch,” he believes Knox students are “responsible enough,” to take accountability for their education.
Despite the headache for professors, the element of surprise, Polite believes, is essential for Flunk Day since guessing the date is “part of the fun,” and adds a childlike glee to the process for college students who have mostly outgrown that.
This year will mark Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jaime Spacco’s second Flunk Day. Last year the event did not interfere much with his classes since he was teaching 300-levels and could trust his students to figure out concepts on their own.
This year, however, Flunk Day was causing him trouble for reasons which are completely unrelated to the courses he’s teaching.
“Flunk Day makes it impossible to schedule an Honor’s thesis defense,” Spacco said. Since outside reviewers need to be flown in on review days, Spacco had to pick days that would not be the same as Flunk. This made him pick Fridays, but since many reviewers have their own classes on Fridays, even this was difficult.
Spacco hopes Flunk Day does not hit while he is teaching an introductory course since they need more guidance.
“You can’t just say ‘read this,’” Spacco said. “They want your advice on some things.”

Paige Anderson
Paige Anderson is a junior double majoring in computer science and creative writing. This is her second year as co-Mosaic editor. Outside of TKS, Paige has written for Knox’s Office of Communications and for her high school newspaper; her in-depth work won a third-place medal in the Redwood Empire Excellence in Journalism Awards competition. Paige will intern at Amazon during the summer of 2013.

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