Professors – Design an Effective Course Syllabus – Attendance Policies & Grading

Two key components of your syllabus are your attendance and grading policies.

Attendance Policy:

Since students will likely question this section for clarification, your classroom attendance policy should be developed only after thorough research. You first need to know the college and department policies, if any exist, as well as the common practices of the majority of other faculty members. Because you are likely to have students receiving scholarships and grants, or who are on work-study programs, you also need to be fully aware of the guidelines of your financial aid department, and summarize their key points in your syllabus. You also should consider the lifestyles of your students, which might be quite hectic, as well as your own values. The important thing is to formulate language that is as specific as possible without completely taking away your flexibility. It is difficult to defend a punitive action against excessive absences that is not spelled out succinctly on the course syllabus.

Based on the collective experience and recommendations of faculty from around the country, I recommend that you have attendance policies spelled out as clearly as possible right from the beginning. Consider the answers to these questions:

  • Is attendance required or expected?
  • Do you want excuses or reasons when students are absent?
  • Will those excuses or reasons make any difference to you as far as penalties are concerned?
  • Do you want to be notified when students know ahead of time that they will be absent? If so, how should they notify you?
  • Are students allowed to “make up” for missed time? If so, how?
  • Do a certain number of absences constitute a lowered grade?
  • What is your philosophy about late arrivals?
  • Should students who are late slip in quietly and take a seat in a designated area, or should they go to their regular seat?
  • The clearer you are on the attendance policy, in your own mind and on your syllabus, the more smoothly your class will operate.

Answer as many questions as possible at the beginning of the term, so that you minimize challenges later in the term Make it a point to regularly refer students to carefully-crafted passages in the syllabus, so they can read and clarify key policies.

Grading Policies and Procedures

Another area to be crystal clear on is the grading policies and procedures you will be following. After determining your unit’s policies (if there are any) and talking with colleagues about the grading culture in the department, you can begin to specify your policy. Answer these questions:

  • First, what will the grading scale be?
  • Is there any flexibility?
  • Are you using plus/minus grading or is it a straight letter grade?
  • Is your system based on points? If so, how do students earn those points?
  • Do you accept late work, and if so, is there a penalty?
  • Are there make-up exams?
  • Will you offer extra credit?
  • If students are not content with a particular grade they have earned (not that we have “given them”), what is their recourse?
  • What are the policies for students’ getting an “incomplete” or withdrawing from the class?
  • How do you initiate withdrawing a students from you class, and what are the cultural issues related to doing so?

While it may seem like a lot to investigate and consider, you will be very glad you invested this effort the first time a “sticky” situation arises. Although students may not agree with the rules, there is a certain amount of security that arises from thoroughly understanding them. Grading policies that are either unclear or are inconsistently applied leave you open to extensive grade appeals (a time-consuming, disagreeable process), angry feelings, unpleasant reports by students, and sleepless nights for you, as you try to work through ‘what should I do?’

You can always modify your rules by invoking leniency, but you cannot easily put into place a structure after the term has begun. The syllabus components presented here will comprise the bulk of your syllabus, but there are additional portions that you may want to consider, in order to have the most complete syllabus possible. The idea behind the complete syllabus is providing students with all the information they need to be successful – if they decide to take advantage of what you are offering. A clear syllabus provides them with some confidence and motivation to do just that.

Getting a Job When You Move to France – Part 1

You want to move to France. But you need to earn a living. What can you do? If you are happy living in a big city, this is usually not a problem. There are plenty of jobs available translating, teaching English and working for companies that require English speakers. For instance, the British Automobile Association has a large call-center based in Lyon. Lyon also happens to be the home for English-speaking organizations such as Interpol and Euronews. You’ll find similar jobs available in the other large cities, especially Paris. So you can almost definitely get a job in big cities, although you would normally expect to have a job of a lower status and salary than in your own country.

However, most of us looking to move to France don’t want to move to big cities. That’s the sort of lifestyle we are trying to escape. We want to live a gentler lifestyle in some secluded rural part of France. What are our job prospects there?

The first thing to say is that the reason that these parts of France are so quiet and rural is that there is very little industry or commerce. Such regions depend mainly on agriculture (and the famous EU subsidies.) The main reason that these areas are so quiet is because young French people don’t want to (or are not able to) live there because of a lack of employment opportunities.

So how can you find a job where the local young French population cannot? The main asset that you have that they don’t have is that you speak good English. As long as you also speak passable French, you may be able to get a job in the tourism industry, perhaps as a guide or as a waiter/waitress. Or you could get a job helping new English people who want to buy property in France. One possibility is to work for an estate agent, though this is a heavily regulated industry where you may be required to obtain qualifications. If you have building skills, many English-speaking people moving into the area (Dutch and German as well as British and Irish) will choose you over French speaking artisan. However the path chosen by many people is to run a gite – a self-catering cottage. This can be a good source of income and we will look more at this in the second part of this article.

An Introduction to the Cities of France

Paris is the capital of France and is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. During the last century, it has grown rapidly and now is home to almost one-fifth of the nation’s total population. To many visitors, the city itself is like a museum. But the city does not have the claustrophobic feel of many large cities as you will always be close to one of its many gardens or a tree lined boulevard. Despite the size of the city it is very easy to get around and visit all the major attractions. Paris centre itself is relatively compact and the surrounding areas of Paris are connected by a highly efficient public transport system, which includes an underground Metro system and an over-ground suburban rail network. If you plan to visit other major cities in France Paris is also the hub of the much acclaimed TGV rail system which offers routes to all the major regions of France.

Popular tourist attractions in Paris include the Eiffel Tower built between the years 1887-1889, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Bastille and the Louvre, the home of da Vinci’s famous painting the ‘Mona Lisa’. If you just want to take in the ambience of this fantastic city, then a stroll along the Champs-Élysées or a boat cruise is called for. The night life, with the world famous cabarets such as the Moulin Rouge, Lido and Crazy Horse, offer a rich variety of entertainment. You will find restaurants offering fine cuisine in all price ranges all over the city, and the food and service in the smaller bar-brassieres is a match to them all.


Lille is one of the major cities of France, located in the north in the France it is also a major traffic hub with major autoroutes and rail links all passing through it. The Eurostar makes an important halt here and provides high speed trains with many other important destinations in France so it’s an easy destination to visit. Lille and its surrounding area have a unique style. It can be seen as something between those of the Flemish and the baroque. Since the 17th century Lille has been enlarged three times, giving the town its present day look, which is that of a fairly new town

It is also known as one of the friendliest cities in France. In this part of France, you’ll notice a very strong local accent, the people also known to like a beer or three. Thousands of visitors descend on Lille for its annual flea market where all the streets are occupied with stands selling anything and everything.


Lyon is the third largest city in France. The city is of geographical and economical importance, and is a major centre of business. It has the reputation of being the French capital of gastronomy and is registered as a World Heritage site. Communication links to Lyon are numerous as it has developed an impressive infrastructure, including an ultra-modern Metro system, two main line stations that play host to the TGV train system, and has an international airport.

But do not overlook Lyon thinking it is just a cloned business city that you find all over the world. This French city is full of Roman attractions, including a great amphitheatre, history, incredible restaurants and a great shopping area. The Rhône and Saône rivers flow through the city and the Roman ruins and other historic attractions can be found on the right bank of the Saone. The fertile valleys of the two rivers and the surrounding steep hillsides have been found to be ideal for wine production, another introduction of the Romans..


Marseille is one of the most exhilarating cities in France, offering a mix of cultures and races, and some of the best restaurants in the country. Marseille is one of France’s oldest cities dating back more than 2000 years. Marseille was one of the ancient Mediterranean ports and played an important part in maritime history, and has now grown into a large cosmopolitans city. With two ports, there functions have been divided, the new port handles the cargo traffic, whilst the old port usually used to be the scene for pleasure cruises and a great place to have a drink and watch the world go by.


Located in the region of Midi-Pyrenees, the provincial city of Toulouse, with its beautiful historic centre, is one of the most vibrant and metropolitan in France. The city is set half way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees Mountains are to the south and mark the border between France and Spain. As well as being a well located historic city it has developed into the home for major high-tech companies, including the French Space research program SNIAS.

For food lovers Toulouse is no different to the rest of France, it has it’s own local delicacy in the “Saucisse de Toulouse”, a traditional sausage made with pork, smoked bacon and red wine. Another local specialty is the Cassoulet, well worth try. It is made with beans in a tomato sauce and various meats


Bordeaux is one of the most important cities in south-western France and is in the region of Aquitaine. It is the capital of what is probably the most famous wine producing region in the world. Surprisingly Bordeaux goes relatively unnoticed by tourists, as the agreeable climate and rich history make this thriving city an interesting place to explore. It offers all the culture and shopping that you would expect from a large and sophisticated city associated with the centuries old wine trade. It also boasts vinotherapie (wine therapy) spas. A youthful culture abounds in Bordeaux as the influx of college students inject it with a young attitude that contrasts and complements its rich history. The city has an abundance of pavement cafés and bars where you can enjoy the divine food of the region accompanied by one of the fabulous Bordeaux wines. Bordeaux is, quite simply combines a luscious, lively and lovely lifestyle.

It is hard to imagine that Bordeaux was once part the English kingdom. The French retook possession, in the 15th century, but then was left to decline for more than 200 years. Prosperity did not return to the city until Louis XI came to the throne and installed a parliament.