Common Essentials

A lot of what there is to know when you are taking an English course with me is common to all the courses I develop and facilitate. Some of that is about how we organize ourselves, see Dynamics below, and some of that is simply guidance on reading, writing, and working that I have collected over the years and have found both useful and compelling to students.

Course Dynamics

First, all students should read Rob Jenkins’ essay on “Defining the Relationship.” Jenkins is also a professor of English at a regional state university in the south. His approach is similar to mine.

Discussion, completion of assignments, and participation in course activities are an important part of how I structure a course. I prefer not to lecture from any given book so that I can add to our discussion and not repeat material found elsewhere – if repetition is important to you, then this may not be the course for you. It should also be noted that course discussions, by design, are wide-ranging. I regard class meetings in the same light as most professionals: they are necessary and you must take notes no matter who is talking. (And it goes without saying that you deserve everyone else’s respect, and they deserve yours.)

Note-taking is your responsibility, as is keeping up with what is happening or happened in class on a given day or what is due in class following your absence. (Not handing in an assignment because you didn’t know about it because you missed class and did not contact one of your classmates still counts as not handing in the assignment.) Please write down the name and contact information of at least one other member of this class.

The university maintains a strict absence policy. If an absence is at all foreseeable, especially if it falls on a due date, you should let me know as much in advance as you can in order to find a solution. The same goes for arriving late or departing early. If you are more than five minutes late, you will not be admitted to class – unless you have a very good narrative and can perform it with a zeal glimpsed only in performances by Cirque du Soleil or Frank Sinatra.

Turn off all sources of distraction before coming into class. Cell phones must be set to silent and put away, unless you are expecting an emergency telephone call, in which case you should talk to me before class starts and sit near an exit so that you can excuse yourself and step outside to take the telephone call.

Let me state this again: no cell phones. Simon Sinek has a good account of how cell phones satisfy us and, at the same time, keep us from the kinds of actions that lead to long-term things like relationships and satisfaction.

All of you have a copy of the Code of Student Ethics. If you do not, please get one. All forms of academic dishonesty — e.g., cheating on exams, plagiarism in papers — will be taken very seriously in this class. At minimum, you will receive an F on the assignment, but there is also the possibility of receiving an F in the course or being dismissed from the university. I personally do not want to consider the possibility of turning over the design of a bridge that my family will cross to an engineer who cheats nor the diagnosis of a medical condition to a doctor who cheats. Many of you are from Louisiana and remain in Louisiana and thus will remain a part of my world: being surrounded by individuals whom I trust and admire is important to me. Please give me every opportunity to do so.

Institutional Necessities

One day, the University will create a central resource that collects stuff like this, but until then, they ask faculty to include things like this:

Emergency Evacuation Procedures

A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and “Designated Rescue Area.” Students who need assistance should identify themselves to the instructor.

Accessibility Services, Disability Services, & Other Helpful People

The university maintains a wide variety of services and centers designed to help students who have either ongoing or emergent needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of these folks,, and don’t be embarrassed to talk to me.


For those who need a a brief (and very user-friendly) refresher on the parts of speech, there’s always this graphic.