Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a student again? Maybe you’ve contemplated the ways in which the world of education has changed since you left it as a student and entered it as an educator. Perhaps the frustrations of watching your students’ strange habits, their seeming disinterest in your course, or their apparent lack of priorities have made you wonder what the heck is going on in their minds. Rebekah Nathan wondered the same things.
“After more than fifteen years of university teaching, I found that students had become increasingly confusing to me. Why don’t undergraduates ever drop by my office hours unless they are in dire trouble in a course? Why don’t they respond to my (generous) invitations to do out-of-class research under my guidance? How could some of my students never take a note during my big lecture class? And what about those students who bring whole meals and eat and drink during my class? Or those other students who seem to feel absolutely no embarrassment in putting their head or their feet on their desk and taking a nap during class?”
Teaching was becoming more difficult for Rebekah as understanding her students became more difficult. She was faced with the challenge of attempting to teach to a population that was slowly becoming foreign to her. So, as an anthropology professor and researcher, she decided to take things into her own hands and conduct a year-long research project in which she enrolled as a freshman student at the very university she worked at.
My Freshman Year is the result of her research findings through this study, and explores habits, routines, thought processes, and priorities of the college students she was surrounded by. During her time spent as a student, she observed the ways that students handled stressed and balanced their schedules, she interviewed them on their professors and classes, and she participated in all aspects of the college life including classes, movie nights, residence hall activities, intramural sports, and living in the dorms. Her results are certainly eye opening as well as entertaining.
To read more about Rebekah Nathan’s experience, head over to the CETL library and pick up a copy of My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student from the “Understanding the Student” section.
Written By: Jessica Moser