19 January 2017

What does knitting sweaters for kittens or filming fetish porn in your basement have in common? An Activity for second semester student introductions

What are you we doing in the classroom besides trying to make one another think about things? Or think about things in a new way or create new ways of thinking? As teachers in the classroom, we'd like this 'thinking' thing to happen for all 3 hours per week that we have students but breaking through barriers of distraction, boredom, and perhaps hunger is sometimes really, really difficult to do.

That's why I like pieces like Mark Manson's 7 Strange Questions that Help You Find your Life Purpose. Perhaps the subject matter doesn't appeal to you but at the very least, his no bullshit-cut-to-the-chase writing style does appeal to me and I'm sure, many of my students. 

As an instructor teaching the second semester of what is essentially a full-year course, I'm not looking for ways in which my students can be introduced to one another for the first time. Instead, I want them to discover more and go deeper. So for a next-level introductory activity to the group work that I've assigned this semester, I'm going to have them answer Manson's insightful questions that I've paraphrased below as a way to get to know one another better (and perhaps again):

1. What struggle or sacrifice are you willing to put up with?
2. What is true about yourself today that would make your 8-year-old-self cry?
3. What makes you forget to eat and poop, i.e. what kind of activities enthrall you and what are the cognitive principles behind them?
4. What unconventional and unique thing are you avoiding right now due to its potential embarrassment?
5. How are you going to save the world?
6. If you were absolutely forced to leave the house everyday, all day, where would you go?
7. If you were going to die in one year from today, what would you do and how would you like to be remembered? 

Getting those wheels turning in the classroom can open up avenues to one's content, to the larger life questions/purposes of a discipline), among many others. 

Manson began this post with a discussion about the difficulty in defining one's life purpose (whether knitting for kittens or filming in one's basement...); He argues that this question is daunting and almost impossible to answer. Instead, asking these questions of oneself and others might help students reflect on where they are and where they want to be - importantly, in a no-bullshit-cut-to-the-chase kind of way.