This is usually a two-day activity (can be adapted to be shorted if you
want). I do this after at least 3 days in class so students have had a
sense about who I am. First they answer the questions alone (10-ish
get them into groups and they compare answers (20-ish minutes—it’s
hilarious to eavesdrop on their group discussions).
list categories on the board and I have each group give me the predominant
answer for each category. As we list answers, I also guide them in
mini-discussions about stereotypes and how perceptions get formed (I have
notes on this as well for a more in-depth lecture later).
I NEVER give them the real answers
until we have a composite for each category from every group (this is what
takes time. You can shorten by doing class discussion on only a few of
the items—they usually want to know it all though).
I then go through and summarize the
different “me’s” they have produced on the board.
Finally, I go through and tell them
the real answers to which they are usually shocked.
I used to shock 101 students and
often high school students with the relationship question. I have a
partner named Chris (we’ve been together going on 15 years). They are
usually cool with this until I mention the possibility that Chris might
stand for Christina. When I tell them Chris stands for Christopher, there
is usually visual relief from the students. I comment on this as well.
Good opener also for telling them about not using any homophobic language
in class, etc. Kinda’ risky and not for everybody. Adapt as you see fit.
This used to be contentious years ago - not so much so now.
I like to conclude with a speech /
discussion on student stereotypes and perceptions. I point to an
African-American female and ask her if she wants me to treat her and
interact with her assuming she is the stereotypical “Angry-Black-Female.”
I point out an athlete or a “farmer kid” or a “Barbie doll” and do the
same thing. Of course they all answer “NO.” They usually have stories
about being stereotyped and they are often negative.
This naturally leads into the
discussion of the perception essay I want them to do. Most are excited
about the writing assignment. A few upper-middle-class, quiet, white
females will usually say they have nothing to write about. This can
lead to a discussion of whiteness studies / white privilege. Otherwise,
they have no problems with the assignment that follows.
Overall, a good opener for the
school year and tends to set the tone of my classroom.
Appendix B: Perception Handout
and First Impressions
Answer the following questions about your instructor. Include a rationale
for each of your responses. For example, your reasoning may not be based on
anything more than the way s/he dresses, the way s/he talks, or how her/his
room is decorated; but be able to explain WHAT you think his/her dress
style, speech, etc. says about herm. The only rule is that you cannot
answer with, “I know because so-and-so told me.” That doesn’t count.
Where did your
instructor grow up?
What did his/ her
parents do for a living?
How big is his/ her
family? Does she have any siblings?
What are his/ her
Does s/he have any
pets? If so, what kind?
What kind of student
was s/he in high school?
What kind of car does
What political party
does s/he belong to?
What kind of music
does s/he listen to?
Is s/he in a
relationship? If so, what kind?