I gave my first Intro lecture of the new year yesterday. 475 students crammed into a classroom with maybe 478 seats. TAs not yet assigned, I was all alone in welcoming these students, making sure they got a syllabus, and seeing that they introduced themselves to two other people in the class (well, I may have missed a few of the sneakiest classmate avoiders). Classroom renovations not yet complete, sawdust on the floor, the projector screen was just installed the night before. No time to remove the old projector screen, which was lying on the floor behind the podium.
Not that I’m complaining. I’m genuinely honored to be able to teach this course, to introduce the discipline I love to students just at a time when they are trying to figure out what inspires them. I love this part of my job, but at times I am very uncertain whether I am up to the task. I’ve been teaching Intro for 6 years now, and this is my third time in a large lecture format, but something about the incredibly large number of students sausaged into that classroom took my breath away for a moment.
Who the heck do I think I am to expect almost 500 students all to sit still and quietly pay attention to what I have to say? It’s amazing to me that this large lecture thing works as well as it does. But aside from taking a bit longer than I’d like to quiet down, all gazillion students listened politely as I introduced the course. There was no time, in the 50-minute class, to deliver any sociology content, so I stuck to the basics of how the class will be run, what they can expect, what I expect, etc. News of all the technical gizmos I use in the course–WebCT, podcasts, clickers–was a bit overwhelming to them, I think, but I am confident that they will find these things useful over the term.
And I was absolutely amazed that several students came up front to introduce themselves to me after class. What a lovely gesture.