Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Day 1 of QU 101 2014

We got off to an excellent start!  Quite a few students showed up early, so we started right out on name tents before 3:00.  I don't plan on expecting the 2pm classes to continue to get out early.

I did a super-quick announcement to make sure that everyone in the room was really intending to be in QU 101, our section, then Molly introduced herself and went right to the icebreaker (thanks to Thomas and the other PCs for this one!).  Molly went to the board, introduced herself, drew a line, and offered the following prompt:

I give you a line, my name, major, and my hometown

What do you do?

Students got up and did the same, in no particular order.  It was, among other things, our first test of moving around in EC 214 - quite awkward!  But all did it, had some fun with lines and red or blue marker.  I went last.  Molly then explained that this will be how the class goes - choices, not a lot of minute instructions, focus on thinking critically.  when I spoke again, I introduced the idea that it isn't about me (as "teacher, teacher"); it's about ALL OF US as a group.

After that I just couldn't take the rows of students and myself standing up front, and Molly figured out how to form a rough circle with a minimum of furniture-moving.  I found a spot at a lefty desk in a corner of the squarish circle.  We talked about critical thinking, what it is, and how we (Molly and I) would help provide an environment to facilitate developing the critical thinking and intellectual curiosity that everyone in the room already has.  I thought that participation was reasonable for the first day, and things being unusual and a bit chaotic compared to a "normal" class.  It would be so much fun if this WAS normal.  A few students had phones out and I mentioned the three I had in view with their owners attending to the conversation as a good thing. 

We finished up with a discussion on the room - students did find it cramped and hot, so the consensus was to take a chance and request another room.  I did mention that possible responses to our request could include No, or a worse setup.  Along with this question, we introduced the idea of parts of the syllabus (grading proportions, due dates, attendance, participation) being negotiable and how that was Wednesday's project.  Molly led the "not about the grade" discussion. There weren't a lot of questions about grades or logistics.

Next, Molly polled the group for Twitter or Facebook, and those who spoke up supported both, Facebook being better for group functions and Twitter for short messages.  Molly got everyone to get out their phones, input her contact information, send her theirs.  She will set up the accounts.  I sat aside from all this and observed, then pointed out how I intentionally stayed out so that the students and Molly would have a private place to connect and discuss the class.  I would stay out unless invited in by the group.  I gave my contact information and invited the students to stop by the reference desk where I was working that night, or my office.  As of 9am Tuesday, no takers yet.

We did talk about the community we hoped to build around our explorations of individuality, diversity and community, as opposed to just forming a social community out of 17 random people.   Having clarified that, Molly and I did offer some out-of-class socializing, and ice cream figured strongly in this conversation.

So I ended up talking a little more than usual on the first day, but so did a number of students.  Molly did a great job of building rapport and helping the student feel more at ease.  I have a great feeling about this section and I'm really looking forward to our future meetings!

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