Tomorrow marks the start of a new semester. And with that, comes hours of course prep and planning. As always, I’m faced with the consideration of who I am in the classroom as both teacher and person, and what messages I convey both verbally and not. I’m reminded of the oft-repeated adage:
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
In my classroom, and I’m sure many others, it’s often not what we tell our students but rather how we say it, that makes the information stick. I can tell them on day 1 that conventional grammar and mechanics does not mean good writing, but until they see my feedback and grades, they won’t believe that. Again, it’s not that I’m conveying different messages, but it’s how I’m saying it, through my action, that earns trust and belief.
In that same vein, I’ve decided to test out an infographic syllabus this semester, allowing me to highlight what I think is most important about my course. While something longer allows for more in depth descriptions and information, my hope is that a more concise syllabus will show my students that what really matters is them. That although I do have guidelines for the course, there is still so much left to be determined by their own writing and what they bring to the classroom.
Again, it’s not what I’m saying but how I’m saying it. I want my students to break genre boundaries, bring pictures into their essays, use other languages as they choose. But if I hand them a standard syllabus on day one, am I really communicating that message? In order for my students to be confident in experimenting with style, I as teacher must do the same.
These are not just classroom considerations either. This year I have taken over as the Writing Program’s technology coordinator, and, along with our new director, I’m thinking of new ways to convey information to our teachers. The days of long-winded emails with color coded and bolded font seem to be no more. We’re thinking social media messaging may be the best way to get our information distributed. Why read a 1000+ character email, when a 140 character tweet will tell you the same thing? Because in the end, it’s not what we’re saying, but how we say it.
For more on creating your own infographic syllabi and what others have said, check out these articles:
- ProfHacker, “Designing Engaging Course Documents With Piktochart”
- GradHacker, “Give your Syllabus an Extreme Redesign for the New Year”