Saturday, January 18, 2014

32 Books My College Students Assigned Me to Read: Chapter 1

This semester I got a crazy idea.

I asked my students to assign ME a book to read.  

I know, crazy, right?  I know.

Once I thought of the idea I had to go through with it.

 I figure although I have 200 students, they each only have one history professor, so I wanted to try to connect with them, or at least the ones that wanted more out of college than multiple choice exams and a day of binge shopping on financial aid distribution day.

Since I so much of our interaction was one sided -- I talk, they write; I assign, they read; etc - I wanted to flip those tables and let each of them teach me something.

With that in mind,  any student who wanted to assign me a book was welcome to do so, and when I finished it they could quiz me on it and earn extra class money for playing this game with me.

Class money buys a few precious points on exams. Class money buys out of a missed online textbook quiz .  Class money is used as fine for choosing to walk into the class after lecture starts.  Because I am the dictatorial leader of my own treasury, I model my economy on the post-Civil War South and I make sure that opportunities to earn powerful class money are few and far between.

This announcement that money could be earned while creating work for a professor stunned the class into silence.

Jaws dropped open.

A guy who was standing up from his chair sunk back down.

I was done with my announcement but they looked confused so I continued.

OK, bring me a book WORTH reading. It doesn't have to be about history, it just has to be a valuable story and you have to bring me the book, you can't just send me out to buy it, I have kids who take all my money, and they don't need your help.  

You have to bring me the book and you have to bring it Monday, not Friday, not Wednesday, not two weeks from now.

Also, don't bring me 50 Shades of Porn, don't bring me the Bible, don't bring me a textbook from another class - especially not chemistry - and don't you dare bring me a book I've written because that's kinda stalkerish and weird. 

The class breaks into laughter and files out of the room.

When they're gone I go off to my next class and extend them the same offer.

The next day I make the same offer to my other class.

On the day the books are due I bring a huge box with me, half-hoping to only get a few books.

After I get the lecture set up and give students the green light, they come forward with books to offer. I make sure I know who gave me which book, and lay them respectfully in a row. After class a few more students hand in books.

I empty the box and take it to my next class.

Only one student in that class has brought a book, so I leave the classroom with a single paperback banging around in a laundry-basket sized cardboard box.

My next class gives me 9 books.

32 book in a semester. 

Now that I have the books in front of me, I'm not scared, I'm not thinking how many pages I have to read per hour or how many books per day.

I'm not worried at all because every single one looks delicious, and no matter how hard I try to want to read the other books, the one by Tina Fey is calling to me like a margarita on a hot day.