Today, for the first time, I held class in my home.
This semester I’m teaching an undergraduate Sociology of Education course. It is capped at a very small number because it is fulfills students’ university requirements for a Writing Intensive course. I have 12 students, so it is small enough that I could invite them, to have class, in our apartment. I’ve never done this before, but had been wanting to for a long time. This course is a seminar-style, discussion-based class. So, it can — at least theoretically — work in an untraditional, non-classroom setting. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it early on in the semester.
To say it is rare at Lehigh for a professor to hold class in their home would be an understatement. It has probably happened before… but it is extremely unusual. It is probably even more unusual (maybe unique?) for it to be an undergraduate class. (I’ve personally never known anyone to do it.) Lehigh is a pretty formal place, a pretty rigid academic environment, and a pretty ‘old school’ culture. I had no idea how it would go over, but I wanted to take a chance.
The class starts at 9:20am. Some of the student-athletes are already exhausted by then (coming straight from early-morning practices/work-outs). Other students have just rolled out of bed and are still groggy and bleary-eyed. Some are probably hung-over. Some are showered, dressed to a ‘T,’ and their hair and make-up is flawless as they look ready to attack the world head-on. I made blueberry muffins, and had juice and coffee for them. They came. They scoped out where I live. They asked a whole slew of questions about the how/why/when/for-how-long of our unusual living situation and lifestyle. They guzzled OJ and got spoiled by homemade muffins and decent coffee from a real mug. And then we sat around on couches, in chairs, and on the floor, and we had class.
As if my own boundaries between work and home weren’t already blurred enough, this morning my home was my classroom and my classroom was my home. It was pretty surreal. And it was pretty cool. I think it went well.
What I’ve noticed is that the students respond no differently to me when they are in a classroom, a dining hall, an event on- or off-campus, or — as I found out this morning — sitting around having a class discussion in my family room. However, what I’ve also noticed is how differently I am responding to them. Beyond the classroom walls I see them more fully, more wholly, and with more clarity. I think — no, actually, I know — that it makes me a better, more insightful, more effective, more transformative professor.
This morning I held class in my home. It was another thing I’d never do if I weren’t living on campus. And it made me a little bit better at what I do.