First Day

First Day

Today is the first day of class at Whitworth, so I thought I’d share my first day activities. This year, I adapted Liv Mariah Yarrow’s opening day questionnaire as a way of getting to know my students. They answered the following questions on a handout and shared their responses to the bolded prompts:

  1. Preferred name 
  2. Pronunciation guide (E.g.: Buh-RAH-hoss)
  3. Preferred pronouns (feel free to share!)
  4. I am from…
  5. It is my __________ year at Whitworth.
  6. Majors I’m considering:
  7. In ten years I hope to be…
  8. My biggest time commitment outside of school is…
  9. I like to read…
  10. My favorite book/poem/play/text is…

I was fascinated by all of my students’ answers, but especially their answers for #8–even at a small private liberal arts school, we can never assume that our students have no responsibilities outside of their classes. A number of my students have leadership positions on campus, many volunteer in their communities, and at least half of the students in my first class also work. I’m looking forward to getting to know these students as the semester progresses; for now, I’m thankful for this glimpse into their lives beyond my classroom.

The second activity we did was a values affirmation exercise. I asked students to consider a list of values (e.g.: bravery, compassion, empathy, grace, integrity, etc.) and circle the three which they consider to be the most important. They then shared their choices with a partner and discussed how they have tried to practice those values in their daily life. Eventually, the class came together as a group to share our common values and draft a course contract with statements expressing how we can practice those values in class. At the end of class, we had produced a list of common values and practices which will help to guide class discussion and conduct throughout the semester. Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 3.11.00 PM

The finished contract will be signed by all students and myself and posted on our course website. It is my hope is that this exercise helps to develop a sense of community between my students–by sharing their values and agreeing to practices which display those values, they are making the classroom a safe and welcoming space for thinking, learning, growing, and, yes, making memes.

I’m happy to share any/all of the activities listed above, if anyone is interested. If you have any suggestions for community-building first-day activities, comment below!

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