Exhausted: Changing things up at the end of the semster

[[Note: I was in fact so exhausted in April that I never actually published this after writing it… Bank these tips for the end of next semester.]]

April is chaos on our campus — we have three Fridays off during the month, and constant events including a citywide party – Fiesta. Everyone feels under pressure to finish the semester strong, and so extra flexibility and adaptation is called for.

Here are a few things I tried this week to combat exhaustion and change things up:

  1. At the beginning of one of my graduate classes, I had each graduate student craft three discussion questions based on the readings that they could share with the class. [Miraculously], one of my students had dice, and so I assigned each student a number on the die. When I rolled their number, they posed a discussion question. I’m going to throw a couple of dice to the bottom of my bag to keep on hand, because this got everyone engaged on a day when most students (and myself) were dragging along.
  2. Some of my students invented this game called “Let’s Unpack That” (you can hear them playing it in the first episode of their podcast PUBlic History). Here’s how it works: a) choose a theme word like “activism,” b) each person in the room does a simple word association, sharing the first word that comes to mind for them in relation to the theme, so for example, some one might choose “change” or “Civil Rights,” c) each person then takes a turn at elaborating on what they see as the connection between the words, and so, for example, they might explain that activism is rooted in the desire for change, d) my students then tackle the role of asking prodding questions that encourage the speaker to further “unpack” this connection for the group. This was incredibly fun to watch this unfold, and the questioners seem to feel empowered as they guide their classmates through unpacking ideas. Students must question the assumptions that lie within their beliefs and understandings, and this can be a very powerful way of defining terms and breaking down assumed connections.
  3. I’ve been trying to find ways for my students to engage with each other and also have a bit of fun. With an undergraduate public history class this week, students worked in pairs to analyze social media accounts for history institutions. Students assessed their use of a particular social media platform and provided a set of recommendations to the organization on how they could more effectively encourage engagement in their social media spaces. While this directly achieved my goal of helping students reflect on the use of digital in public history spaces, there are many ways that you could set students to social media to investigate particular topics in the public sphere.

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