Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Icebreakers

I find it ironic that it is a non-graded assignment that takes the most amount of energy out of me during the course of the semester. One of the first assignments I give my students is to deliver an icebreaker. This is a speech where they introduce themselves to the entire class. I tell them, however, I am not looking for them to come up tot he front of the class and give an autobiographical sketch of their lives. I want to learn something about the individual’s personality. What makes him/her who he/she is?

The assignment has many purposes. First, it gets the students thinking. It gets them up in front of the class, having to give a structured speech. It lets me learn each student’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to public speaking. It also gives each student and idea of how I grade and what I am looking for in a speech.

The speech, itself, is not graded, other than Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. It is early in the semester and I have not yet gone through the chapters in the book the deal with putting a speech together. Still, it is important to get them up there. So, I get all the students in class up on a given day and each one does the icebreaker. Last semester it was 22 of them; this semester it was only 20 of them in a class. Still, sitting through 20 speeches in one class, taking notes on them, staying focused, is a lot (for me as well as the students). I know I could do it over two days but, first I want to get them out of the way and second, and more importantly, I don’t want some to feel that it is unfair because some students had an extra day or two to prepare.

All icebreakers were given on Thursday and the next few days were spent typing up 20 critiques. Anytime that I type up a critique, I put time and effort into it. For the icebreaker, I put extra time and effort into it. Students learn what I think, how I would grade it they were getting a grade on the assignment, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. In addition, if I can show them early on how much I stay focused on the speech, how intent I am on making suggestions to help, than I earn their respect earlier, instead of later. So, while there is no grade that gets entered into the gradebook, I just finished one of the busiest times of the year.