I mentioned a few posts back that my class has been a bit blah lately. Well, with school cancellations and the MLK holiday, it’s been a slow start to the semester. It seems as if we haven’t had a full week of classes yet, although we are in week 5. It’s not that my students are doing anything wrong; they’re simply quiet. More quiet than I like. I’m used to trying to corral people and keep them focused long enough to complete an agenda. As an instructor, I’m more comfortable with a class in which students interact and I do less lecturing. And based on a quick learning style survey I had my students take early on, most of them enjoy group work more than solo work as well. So I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get them engaged.
Tonight I decided to take a few minutes at the beginning of class to simply chat. As I took attendance (my habit) I posed the question, Did anyone do anything fun or exciting over the weekend? Silence.
One girl finally offered, I went to the mall, but that’s not really exciting.
No, I said. Not really.
Homework, a guy in the back chimed in. I stopped myself from calling him a suck-up.
Nothing, really? This is probably why they don’t talk. Although, I’ve learned over the years that sometimes, it’s just that they’re afraid to. I finally said, Well, I went to the Zac Brown concert.
A hand shot up. So did I! FINALLY. But why didn’t he mention it immediately?
We talked a bit about that concert and music in general and other concerts people had gone to. I talked about the Stone Sour concert I went to a couple weeks ago, which elicited some laughter and the comment that they didn’t really see me as a hard rock person. Ahhh!..appearances really can deceive. It took less than ten minutes, but there was an tangible shift in the room. Everyone seemed a little more relaxed. For the rest of the class time, they worked in small groups on the current chapter we’re studying. Each group covered a section they will present to the rest of the class tomorrow. It was great to see them interacting. I almost hated to stop them when class time was over. There was a lot of laughter. A bit of chummy arguing, even. And everyone was involved. No one just sat and stared. That’s the kind of class time I find most rewarding. Of course, not every class can be that way. Some material won’t be conducive to group work. But I think a few barriers came down tonight. Now that they have chatted and become a little more personal to each other, it will be easier for some of them to speak up later. For that, I’m very thankful.