Friday, August 28, 2009

Actual questions my students asked me on the first day of class

[Now: Updated with answers to said questions!]

We're two weeks deep into the new semester. So far, so good. The classes are full, and most of my students seem to want to be in class. Of course, next week my first set of papers comes in . . .

Anyway. On the first day of class, I tried something that a colleague of mine shared with our department: after I'd talked about the syllabus, I called roll by asking them what brings them to college and invited them to ask me a question. I challenged them a bit by saying that the R's through the Z's would have great questions for me because the A's through the Q's would have already asked all the lame questions. End result: I got lots of really interesting questions from the get-go.

Here are some of them:

"Do you think you could survive by yourself in a wilderness area for a month?" (Once my student said it would be in Alaska in the summer, I said that if I knew enough about the (edible) fauna, I thought I could--I know how to build a solar still and how to build a fire using flint and steel.)

"What animal would you like to be?" (A seal.)

"Do you own a muscle car?" (No.)

"What is the name of your subconscious?" (This was the question that, out of all of them, truly stumped me. I decided that mine doesn't have one, but I described what it looked like; I then described the stereotypical college English prof.)

"Robert Cormier or William Faulkner?" (What do you think?)

"What were you like as a student before college?" (Answered in part here.)

"What would you be doing if you weren't teaching?" (Running a bookstore.)

"What book did you read that made you want to teach English?" (The first prose fiction that really stirred me intellectually as well as emotionally was that part of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man from the beginning to the Christmas dinner scene; the book that made me want to teach, though, was As I Lay Dying.)

"What is the most interesting place you've ever visited?" (I told the class that I'm not what I would consider well travelled; given that, I told them, "Mexico City.")


R. Sherman said...

Very cool opener.

What were your answers? (I sense a meme in the offing.)


Anonymous said...

Did anyone refuse to ask you a question?

John B. said...

No one refused to answer, though a couple of people near the beginning of the roster didn't answer up right away. I just came back to them later.

Pam said...

As I Lay Dying - boy did I like that book.

Happy new semester!