Introductions are awkward! Now that the back to school season is upon us I have been seeing a lot of posts about the first day of class where everyone shares their name and something about themselves. I dread it too.
If most people loathe these introductions, why do we still do them?
I think despite the anxiety it builds they are a good way to break the ice. Everyone is equally uncomfortable about it so it puts students on a level playing field and forces them over that awkward first hurdle of ‘hello.’
Last school year during the Spring semester I was taking a creative writing class and got into an almost argument with a classmate. It doesn’t matter what it was over (aside from that I was right! haha), but both of our voices were raised and I could tell by the way the rest of our group was looking at us that they noticed it getting heated too.
I was so defeated. It was the first time this happened during college and I was worried it would ruin my semester. I reached out to my professor about it and I’m glad I did. It was still early in the semester and she fully understood where I was coming from and was committed to reinforcing that our classroom was a safe place. The next class she had us do a bunch of ‘community building’ exercises. A lot of the class considered it silly, and most of it was, but we needed it.
The most helpful part of it was the switch on that initial introduction. We went around the room and introduced ourselves to our classmates again. We said our name and something about us that we felt the rest of the room should know about working with us. People could have given bullshit answers, but everyone really went for it. They disclosed anxiety, depression, anger, stoicism, exhaustion and so on. The vulnerabilities that we confessed restored a space where fearless creativity could be expressed.
I guess the point of this is while these exercises are silly, they do matter. We’re going to spend the next few months in the same room talking about the same stuff, we might as well learn something about one another. A professor told me that college is where you start building your “tribe.” If you never talk to classmates and build connections you’ll miss out on half of the experience.
If you’re an instructor consider putting your own fun spin on the traditional name/fact game!