Not exactly what I thought

Jan 26 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but my first day of class went differently than I had imagined. I got there early to set my computer up and of course found a closed cabinet that held the AV hook-up. Before warming up for my interpretive dance that was my back-up in case the slides didn't work, I checked with the desk at the nearby computer lab. Yes, they had a key. Yes, they would open it. As the Guy With the Key went to unlock the cabinet, he pulled the handle to reveal that it was unlocked and that I am a dumbass. Luckily, I am used to that.

The classroom is set up in the most awkward arrangement possible, with the closest desk only feet from the screen and the computer not even close (thanks for the 3 foot cord!). The result is that any hope of using "presenter tools" to see what is coming up next is completely lost. Yet another drawback to modifying someone else's slides for a lecture.

For some reason, the students waited outside and almost all came in at once about 3 minutes prior to the class's start. All but one of them completely ignored me standing two feet from the door and telling them to pick up a syllabus. They grabbed the paper but regarded me in the same way that most walk by someone asking for change on the NY subway.

That trend continued into the lecture, where questions for them to answer were greeted with a zombie-movie-just-before-someone-gets-attacked kinda quiet. If I hadn't forced them to introduce themselves part way through the class I would have been wondering whether I had the statistically-impossible fortune to preside over a class of people entirely mute. I tried to toss a couple of off-hand jokes out there - nothing. I asked questions - nothing. If there were crickets in the room it would have been a full blown cliche. I really had to pin them down to get any response. I'm thinking of releasing a slightly shaken ferret into the class on Thursday.

Other than that, it was fine. I kept it fairly brief, talked about what I expect of them and what they can expect of the class. I introduced myself and the subject and they were out of there 30 minutes early. Three showed up late, but only one was really late. I only had one person obviously texting in class and I'll try and find a way to address that.

They seem like a decent group, hopefully I just need them to warm up a little.

15 responses so far

  • Anonymous says:

    Minus the dumbass part, that's near identical to my 1st class day experiences. It takes about 2 weeks for the stus to finish sniffing you out, just keep going. oh, yeah, don't "dance", you might hurt someone with your "disco".jc

  • New Asst. Prof. says:

    Ditto anonymous. My first class, I was so worried that I had a bunch of walking dead. It does get better but be prepared for each new class/course to have elements of this Day 1 experience. I'm sure you did a great job!

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    I have asked a class on the first day if they were all transfer students from the school of the deaf and dumb just to get them to liven up and ask questions. Threatening pop quizzes if in class participation is bad is a viable threat and has worked for me in the past.

  • Alyssa says:

    The AV cabinet thing happened to me a couple weeks ago when I was doing a workshop for a bunch of grad students. Always fun.I agree with Anon and NAP - it'll probably take a couple weeks for the students to get used to your style and loosen up a bit. Although GRs question about being deaf & dumb would work too LOL

  • qaz says:

    My new classroom doesn't have a whiteboard (or a chalkboard) or anything except a computer hookup. So I can't write anything on the board - because there's no board! Lots of pens scattered all around the table, but I've checked and they've told me "no, why would you need a board?"

  • PhDamned says:

    A classroom full of zombies is better than a outfit full of vomit right?

  • Drugmonkey says:

    and did you close with "I'm totally blogging you silent mofos"?

  • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    LOL @ DrugMonkey. That'll shut 'em up for good...

  • PUI prof says:

    I remember distinctly that I had them raise hands to an innocuous questions first. I think it was something like: "For how many of you is this your first class of the day? "For how many is this your first class in college?" Then I laughed and said, "Me too."It wasn't a brilliant plan, just got lucky that it somehow broke the ice.I handed the syllabi out while taking roll, trying to start the process of memorizing the 60 names.I never did get into that cabinet the first day so I did it all on the board. Luckily there wasn't much time left over for material after I went through the syllabus.Do you think they were impressed with your credentials when you introduced yourself? Do you feel like you instilled in them a sense of confidence in you? I remember that you were worried about that earlier.Good luck breaking the ice!

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm astonished at how bad texting in class has gotten. Cell phones in class were never tolerated @ my undergrad institution. I even had one prof take away phones that rang in class, but I don't know if you can get away with that these days. My suggestion is go the tough route. Tell them it won't be tolerated. When you catch the first kid texting away, boot them from class. That should put a stop to it.

  • tideliar says:

    I always came down on mine like a motherfucker on day 1. I had my contact details up and my office hours and then went into some rules. Peppered liberally with phrases like "you little motherfuckers" and "you fucking shits"."yes you can find me in the phone book. No you may not call me. Ever."They were so scared some were white faced and trembling. "I have no compunction at all against failing anyone of you" was another one that got their attention.

  • Michael Hultström says:

    Concerning taking the tough route on texting, or anything with regards to students. I wouldn't suggest taking the "tough" route against any of the student's habbits, it will antagonize them, and it doesn't help very much.Otherwise you can do like tideliar suggests, that must be hilarious.For softening them up there's no magic bullet. I find simple, leading questions, followed by the "I won't continue until you answer"-strategy to work poorly. What is most effective is to find a type of question where students think that their answer will be the most insightful/funny/informative.If you have lots of time an thurough round of introductions can do the trick, especially if you add some questions like; what do you expect from this course? Sadly this can suck as a strategy with well integrated courses, where all the students know eachother well already.Anyway, good luck.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    PhDammed - I stayed vomit free all day and we even got our car back and it started this morning. I'm cautiously optimistic. and did you close with "I'm totally blogging you silent mofos"?No,DM. Instead I made them all follow me on Twitter and then Tweeted during the class about how quiet they were. I wanted to provide a good example of using social media in the classroom so I can add it to my annual review next year. As far as the texting goes, I think I'll just point out the blatant offender in class with some joke about him texting his friends to tell them how much fun he is having in class and hope that they get the point as a warning. If it doesn't stop, I'll have to suggest that they go outside to text. I'll get them talking, it'll just take a little bit. Overall they seem like good kids who just need to adjust to being back and all their new classes.

  • Anonymous says:

    if you want to single out a student who's texting, use "could you please stop texting your mom for one minute??!! tell her you are in class!" count the shades of red.jc

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Oh JC, I like that one.

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