My Writings

Are We Breaking the Ice, or Making It?

Today I’m sharing another chapter of one of my works in progress, my stories from college. In this chapter, the 5 types of first day “meet your neighbor” scenarios I’ve encountered. Hope it gives you some laughs! Have a humorous first day of your own to share, either as a student or an instructor? I’d love to hear about it!

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          “Day One: are we breaking ice or making it?”

The annual “this is why people don’t show up the first day.” There are five types of instructors for this one: the one who has everyone basically tell their life story, the one who only wants your name and program of study, the one who has you interview and introduce the person next to you, the one who makes you introduce yourself on the second day because you missed the first day, and the one who couldn’t care less who you are.

So first we have the happy-go-lucky, I-love-all-my students-and-want-to-know-everything-about-them instructor. Basically this person would like you to share your name, program of study, where you are from, where you live now, where you plan to go after college, your kids’ favorite TV shows, your favorite food, and who all your friends are. Basically an in-class NSA. And don’t worry; all these details and more will be revealed at a moment’s notice from the instructor as well. Now I’m not knocking this type of instructor. In my experience they tend to be the kind of person who gets super involved in what you are doing in the class and is more than willing to give you one-on-one help because they see you as a real person rather than just another student waiting to soak up facts like a sponge. This person sees you as someone they can learn from just as well as you can learn from them. And as such, they want to show how open they are about their lives and show you that it’s ok to be open about your own.

Type two wants the basics. Pure and simple. It might be in the interest of time. It might be that this person is not very good at getting to know their students but at the same time want to look like they care about who you are. Or they are the person who wants to cover a chapter and a half on the first day, so they go through the pleasantries of introductions but they don’t want it to cut into lecture time. And that right there should set the stage for knowing what will be expected of you in class – very little time for discussion, probably a lot of independent study.

“Please spend 5 minutes getting to know the person(s) beside you, and then introduce them to the rest of the class.” Honestly, I do not understand this one. Unless you’re going to have us work together all semester (which has happened with me 1 out of 3 times), why on earth would you have someone introduce a stranger? You know they’re going to fumble each other’s names and either forget the hurried 5 minutes or write everything down and read off a paper the whole time. So why not just introduce yourself? And unless I am on a team all semester, I’m sorry, but I simply do not care who my neighbor is. Oh, and in speech class we did this one with a twist: “use one of these animal stickers to describe the person next to you. This will be one of many ways to identify yourselves during the course of this class.” I’m tall and I know it; you don’t need to point that out by making me a giraffe. And how do you even begin to pick someone to be the snake or the walrus? We were not allowed to be our favorite animal. The animal was supposed to describe us. That’s when you know for sure and certain this is going to be a screwy class.

Person C is the worst. They might be trying to lay down the law and show they are not to be messed with. Or they might think everyone is thrilled to know who you are and they don’t want you to totally miss out on the fun of the first day. So you miss the first day for whatever reason and come into class on day two and…”Ok, so you were not here on Monday. Please take a moment to tell us a little about yourself. Everyone pay attention, please, (Y/N) is speaking!” Did I mention I hate public speaking? This is not my finest moment. Or, in the case of a certain history instructor had, whom I refer to this day as Professor Snape (only Snape was a bit kinder than this guy), “Would you like to explain to the class who you are and why we have been graced with your presence today but not on the first day, when the rest of us showed up? And can we expect this kind of behavior from you often?” Obviously this guy was out to intimidate the newbies. Those instructors are out there. Don’t lose your cool, but don’t for one second, think you cannot defend yourself, either.

Other than that, my Snape was also type number 4: who simply did not give a hoot in hell who we were. You only had to introduce yourself if you were late. He didn’t know who we were and he did not care. He didn’t even know what faces belonged in his class. Case in point: fire drill, “Ok, that’s 15 people; my class is all here.” 15 people, congrats, sir. Now if only those last two people you counted were actually in our class instead of simply standing around near our class. He had no clue. The only way he had of identifying us was to get us to raise our hands for things like, “who here is a farmer?” or “who here is a Christian?” and then commence to tell us why that label made us stupid or not worth teaching or someone that no one should be friends with. By the way, if an instructor asks the class or an individual student any question such as this, you do not have to answer. Ever. And if an instructor ever singles you out in front of a class and tells everyone you should be feared or hated because of your religious or political beliefs or any other reason, REPORT them to the dean or president or security guard or someone you trust immediately! If you think an instructor is trying to intimidate you, see if you can get a witness (such as another classmate) and report it. You as a student have the right to protect yourself, no matter how old you are or what the instructor says.

Bottom line: in one way or another, 9 out of 10 classes will make you go through the agony of first day ice brakers. Be cool; you’re not the only one who doesn’t care. If you’re sick of telling your story for the millionth time, practice making up a story and saying it with a straight face. A+ if everyone in the room believes it; then on the last day, pipe up and tell them who you really are. 🙂 Or not. It’s all good.

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