The semester is about to start. When your class meets for the first time, do you just go over syllabus, schedule, policies, and such? If you have some extra time, do you let your students go early or do you teach?
I teach, for a few reasons.
The preliminaries don’t take a whole class session. I’m done with the overview stuff in about half an hour. That means I have plenty of time left on the clock. A three-unit course only has 45 contact hours in a semester. I’m not going to squander away much of that time just by letting students leave early.
I particularly don’t want to waste time on the first occasion we meet. First impressions matter. The tone of the course — and the expectations of the students — are set quite early. (In K-12 teaching, the “first ten days” of the academic year are seen to be a critical time for both the instructor and the students.) I could use this time to let students know that they’re in for a serious classroom experience that challenges them to think as often as possible. I want students prepared to be challenged every time they come in the classroom. I can’t think of a better way of doing this than keeping them to the end of scheduled class.
Setting the tone as a serious straight-to-work kind of guy also makes my my own time management easier. Some of the more time-consuming, and annoying, parts of the job are dealing with unreasonable requests from students. Once my students know that I’m all about serious business when it comes to teaching, then they’re a lot less likely to attempt to occupy time with non-teaching related matters. I still need to be approachable to students, of course, because that’s a part of effective teaching. But if I give the impression that I’m loose with my time inside the classroom, they might think I’m just as loose when I’m outside the classroom. I’m busy, and my students are my highest priority, and want my students to know this. That means when instructional time is scheduled, I use it. This minimizes the chance that a student in my class will stroll by my office just to chat, without any specific purpose in mind. (As our majors outnumber tenure-line faculty by about 100 to 1, this is the only way I could get anything done.)
I teach when class is scheduled because it’s my job. There are very few specified expectations of my job as a professor, but one of them is to teach when I’m scheduled. That much is, at least in my view, the least I should be doing.
If you let your class go early, how does this work for you?