Tuesday, January 18, 2011

the last first day

Forgive me if I can barely type straight. I teach for 6 hours (3 consecutive classes) on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, today's will be an easy post, a quick description of the first day of class for my upper-division seminar on Mesoamerican archaeology*. This is the last post in my short series describing the first days of class.

I'm not a Mesoamerican archaeologist, so I've focused the course on student research, rather than lecturing. It's critical that the students have a good rapport, since discussion and research presentations will be the heart of the class. With an eye toward creating a social atmosphere, I made the first day of class a little party. I made posole, brought chips and salsa, and played Mexican music on the computer (Grooveshark is my friend). I also put together a PowerPoint presentation of images from Mesoamerica today. It plays continuously in the background while we're talking and eating.

There isn't a lot of deep meaning to the party. The purpose is just to start the class with a festive and social atmosphere. I do, however, talk with the students about the clear pre-Columbian influences in modern Mesoamerica (the maize in the posole, the Aztec influences in Mexican art, the native features on people's faces, etc.) This is a useful exercise, since only half of the students who take the class are interested in archaeology, per se. The others are Latin American Studies majors, or taking the course for other reasons. Tying the archaeology into the modern cultures, then, helps secure their interest.
*If you know me, you may justifiably wonder why I'm teaching a class on Mesoamerican archaeology. No, I don't know a Mayan cenote from a hole in the ground (granted, the difference is rather academic). Let's just say there are a variety of political factors in play.

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