December 11, 2010

What I learned this semester

At the end of the fall semester, I ask my first year students to each write on an index card one thing they learned their first semester in college. I tell them that they can include things they learned in the residence halls or from their friends or in any class. Then I shuffle the cards and read them aloud. Here's what they wrote this year.

I learned that taking care of my mental health is most important … and sledding down a hill on a table can end very badly.

You really can build a house out of straw.

You can use the internet to find out which animals have sex.

Vinyl is evil.

Sleep is not overrated.

I learned that sometimes you just have to take a risk and have fun.

I love to write just to write. I don’t like science. I have no idea what to do with my life.

I would not survive an avalanche.

I learned that I really love people and everyone has something to offer.

Driving in the snow can be dangerous.

I have learned how to tune out drunk kids coming home at 3:30 am.

Freewriting is awesome. Sleep is amazing. Facebook is the enemy.

Opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternate forgone.

The safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is 350 parts per million.

Nerf basketball and small dorm rooms don’t mix.

Drunk people are very fun to mess with.

It’s possible to live mostly off Ramen noodles.

Calculus is hard.

It’s really necessary to make good friends.

I learned that not everyone dedicates Sundays to watching football.

Seventy percent of electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. Only about 7 percent comes from hydro power.

Rubix cubes can be used as weapons.

It’s worth it to bring the map.

Belarus is the country most contaminated by Chernobyl.

How important it is to keep an open mind.

The value of going to the bathroom without people walking in and out is something you never consider until you go to college.

All-nighters are a terrible idea.

Passion can be a great gift or a great burden

Campus is 41 miles from a nuclear power plant.

A line becomes a circle from a farther perspective.

It all comes down to finding a balance.


my15minutes said...

This reminds me of one of the things I learned at school this year.... my campus is 14.5 miles from a nuclear power plant.
Love the list from your students....great idea.

Seeking Solace said...

I started doing this exercise with my first semester students too. It's amazing what they come up with!

Anonymous said...

De-lurking to say that, inspired by you, I did this with my first-years this semester. It was wonderful. Thank you.

Kyla said...

I especially like the last one.

rented life said...

I love when you post this and hope to borrow the idea when I get back to teaching again.

And I learned to listen to my gut and sometimes what might seem "right" really isn't best.

kathy a. said...

love this exercise, and your students' answers.

patti said...

I assigned 2 pages of weekend observations to my kids. I can't wait to see what they've come up with.

Anonymous said...

So you teach your students that it's bad to burn fossil fuels for electricity, but also that we should fear nuclear power. Meanwhile you burn lots and lots of wood in your fireplace. What is a "clean" energy source for you??

jo(e) said...

Anon: Your first statement is not accurate.

I teach a writing course. So what I teach students is how to read and write and think clearly. They read essays, form their own opinions, and write essays that support those opinions.

Because we're at an environmental college, they have been learning a lot about alternative energy sources in their other classes. This semester, many students wrote papers about wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, conservation, etc.

At least one of my students wrote an essay opposing nuclear power, citing facts about Chernobyl, and at least one other student wrote an essay arguing that nuclear power is a smart energy source, using France as an example of a country who uses it successfully.

One student came to class with a short paper about a dance floor designed to capture the energy of the dancers. We all said we'd love to see something like that on our campus. One student joked that we could have a mandatory dancing requirement.

Magpie said...

I love the random whimsy of this list.

holly said...

I haven't read any blogs this past month so now that I'm upon Christmas vacation, I loved catching up on your's. I love the list compiled by your students. It makes me feel young again (college was only five years ago, but it feels like forever sometimes)!