help save the youth of America*

Impressions of yesterday's first class:

Yes, once more a mix of seniors (but only 2-3 this time), juniors (the majority), second and first years. Oh, and an additional group too--transfer kids. I have about seven international students, all starting their first semester at TUWSNBN, one of whom asked me what Blackboard was. This is turning into even more of a Nepali village school experience than before. Seriously, after these classes, teaching something like my topic--terrorism or security studies or Southeast Asian history/politics should be like shooting fish in a barrel (though I'm not quite sure why this specific activity is performed).

Did I mention I already have 29 people in the class? 5 did not show up so maybe that means they changed sections? (I live in hope).

But, today, I want to talk to yous about space. Or, more specifically, the division of space. Spatially, this classroom is rather different from my last one. I am not sure how that will play out in terms of getting the kids to interact. I think that groupwork is going to be difficult because it's a smallish classroom, with a big oval-shaped table in the centre. The kids are sat around said table--and some of them are relegated to the outside rim as there are not enough chairs. I walked in right on time and they were all waiting for me, expectantly looking at the door.

Getting back to the space thing. This is a classroom that I myself have been a student in (and TA-d in**) and now I am teaching in it. It's a fairly small space, dominated by the big table in the centre. Both my previous classes had less than 15 students. With twice the number of people, there is no distinct space for me (the instructor) to sit/stand/walk around in. Last semester, I had enough space to stride around, wave my arms, do whatever ridiculous thing I do when teaching. This time, having to sit in between two of my kids with barely elbow room between us is rather too much closeness than I (or they?) need.

Funnily enough (or maybe not so), the small space disallowed what was a common feature in my previous class--kids being sat around in small groups with their friends. Since every chair was utilised (did I mention there was no space for me at first?), little groups could not sit separate from each other. The marginalised ones were those who did not get to sit at the big table and had to range themselves in chairs against the wall. I have to wait and see if the arrangements of who-sits-where shifts through the semester.

I have more to write on this space thing but that'll require a few more observations (and thinking). And, of course, you'll be able to read all about it right here on PTSD.

* Billy Bragg (really, who else did you think would sing this?).

** This included a memorable occasion in which my watching Liverpool play in the BigCup was displayed on the big screen instead of Anthony Giddens discussing the wonders and perils of globalisation. If I were a student, I know which one I'd have preferred to watch.


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