Shadow Syllabus

  1. IMG_3738I’ll tell you exactly how to get an A, but you’ll have a hard time hearing me.
  2. I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  3. Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.
  4. I had bookmarked a citation for that fact, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
  5. The only way to seek knowledge is to open your hands and let your opinions drop, but that requires even more fear.
  6. The goals and outcomes I am required to put on my syllabus make me depressed; they are the illusion of controlling what cannot be controlled.
  7. I end up changing everything halfway through the semester anyway because the plan on paper is never what the living class ends up being about.
  8. I desperately needed A’s when I was in college because I didn’t know what else I was besides an A.
  9. Our flaws make us human; steer toward yours. I steer toward mine. That won’t always be rewarded in “the real world.”
  10. “The real world” isn’t the real world.
  11. I realize that I, as the authority figure in this room, might trigger all kinds of authority issues you have. Welcome to work and the rest of your life.
  12. I have a problem with authority figures myself, but I’ve learned how to work with it. Watch my cues.
  13. I think I have more to teach you about navigation than about commas, although I’m good at commas.
  14. This is about commas, but it is also about pauses and breaths and ways to find moments of rest in the blur of life’s machinery.
  15. I hope we can make eye contact.
  16. One of you who is filled with hate for this class right now will end up loving it by the end.
  17. One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite.
  18. One of you will drive me to distraction and there’s nothing I can do about it.
  19. Later I will examine the reason you drive me to distraction and be ashamed and then try to figure out my own limitations.
  20. There will always be limitations, and without my students I wouldn’t see them as easily.
  21. Sometimes I will be annoyed, sarcastic, rushed, or sad; often this is because you are not doing the readings or trying to bullshit me.
  22. Students are surprised by this fact: I really really really want you to learn. Like, that’s my THING. Really really a lot.
  23. I love teaching because it is hard.
  24. Someone in this classroom will be responsible for annoying the hell out of you this semester, and it won’t be me.
  25. Maybe it will be me. Sometimes it is, but often it is not.
  26. I won’t hold it against you unless you treat me with disrespect.
  27. You should rethink how you treat the people who bring you food at McDonald’s, if you are this person, as well as how you treat your teachers.
  28. I hope you are able to drop the pose of being a professional person and just settle for being a person.
  29. Everyone sees you texting. It’s awkward, every time, for everyone in the room.
  30. Secret: I’ve texted in meetings when I shouldn’t have and I regret it.
  31. Secret: I get nervous before each class because I want to do well.
  32. Secret: when I over-plan my lessons, less learning happens.
  33. Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.
  34. Secret: It’s hard to figure out whether to be a cop or a third-grade teacher. I have to be both. I want to be Willie Wonka. That’s the ticket. Unpredictable, not always nice, high standards, and sometimes candy.
  35. What looks like candy can be dangerous.
  36. Secret: Every single one of your professors and teachers has been at a point of crisis in their lives where they had no idea what the fuck to do.
  37. Come talk to me in my office hours, but not to spin some thin line of bullshit, because believe it or not, I can see through it like a windowpane.
  38. Some of you will lose this piece of paper because you’ve had other people to smooth out your papers and empty your backpack for as long as you can remember, but that all ends here. There’s no one to empty your backpack. That’s why college is great and scary.
  39. Maybe there’s never been anyone to empty your backpack. If there hasn’t been, you will have a harder time feeling entitled to come talk to me or ask for help.
  40. I want you, especially, to come talk to me.
  41. You can swear in my classroom.
  42. Welcome. Welcome to this strange box with chairs in it. I hope you laugh and surprise yourself.

-by Sonya Huber

(I’m so happy teachers like this and want to use; it’s fine if you edit a version to take out the swearing if you’re using it with students! All the best, Sonya)

Edit: Here’s a Shadow Syllabus for your use.

174 responses to “Shadow Syllabus”

  1. […] are building, my students and I, is a shadow syllabus.  I first heard the term when I came across Sonya Huber’s wonderful writing where she poetically outlines the intersectional politics and affects that structure any […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reblogging this one. Work, feelings/insights like the ones portrayed here need to be circulated again and again. You are the right voice in the right time. The right tone; never condescending. It serves to reaffirm our faith (if ever we feel we have lost it) in our own humanity. Thank you. I am glad I stumbled upon this one (via Cheri Lucas Rowlands).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Intricacies and Follies and commented:
    Reblogging because Work, feelings/insights like the ones portrayed here need to be circulated again and again. The Author IS the right voice in the right time. This piece serves to reaffirm our faith (if ever we feel we’ve lost it) in our own humanity. I am glad I stumbled upon this one (via Cheri Lucas) I hope you find value in it as well. Selma

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This makes me want to go to office hours all the time. Great teachers sustain me, and brought me up as much as, if not more than, my parents. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Out of Tune and commented:
    “Secret: I have to plan first and THEN abandon the plan while still remembering its outline.”

    One of the skills I developed during my first year of teaching is flexibility. I find that when I strictly stick to my lesson plan, the students are not interested as much as when I let them direct the learning process on their own while I listen and comment, prodding them to figure things out on their own. So yeah, totally relate. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Every year I give my printed plan to my students. I try to make them understand just grades are not going to take them any where special. They can come and discuss their fears and worries with me. This is my promise too: One of you who I believe to be unteachable and filled with hate for me will end up being my favorite. Wish you all the best!


  7. Reblogged this on " I want to be a teacher " and commented:
    This is a interesting read to me, as someone who is considering becoming a teacher. One thing that I had not paid much attention to throughout high school was the syllabus. I saw never saw it for its value. This article talks about something as simple as a syllabus while revealing hidden truths about the way educators view students. Sonya Huber does an amazing job humanizing teachers.


  8. Sonya, I just reread this: I’ve been posting it for my students (including the swearing) for a couple of years now, and I just wanted to join the long list of people expressing gratitude for your being able to say what we all think and feel with such humor, honesty, and wisdom. I’d love to be in one of your classes, just so I could watch you lighting your students up–and handling the ones who steadfastly refuse to be lit. And yes, I’m going to include this in my own blog, with my gratitude.


  9. Reblogged this on Melissa Ridley Elmes and commented:
    Today is our first day of classes for AY 2019-2020 on my campus, and as has become my wont over the past few years, I returned to this beautiful piece by Sonya Huber, which so eloquently captures and expresses so much of what I think and feel about teaching when I walk into the classroom on the first day of each new term. I’m reblogging it here in hopes that some of those who read my blog will also find it meaningful to them.


Leave a Reply to sonyahuber Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: