A first-day AMA

To begin building my own credibility (and that of my TA) in the classroom this semester, we spent 15 minutes hosting an “Ask Us Anything” (as opposed to AMA==Ask Me Anything; inspired by Making the Most of Your First Day of Class). To avoid spending too much time having students write their questions on cards, collecting the cards, and trying to get through all the written questions, we adapted this to our large classroom by asking students to first meet their neighbours and discuss what questions they might have for us. Then, we opened the floor, and students raised their hands to ask their questions.

Here are the questions I can recall from the class (some of which were directed at the TA):

  • How did you get into research?
  • How do you get to be a TA?
  • How much debt did you go into for university?
  • Why did you do physics, and how did you get into it?
  • What calculator can we use for exams?
  • Where do you like to ride your bike?
  • What does [the TA] do when he’s not in class?
  • How old are you?
  • What hair product do you use?

They were all good questions, and it was very interesting to get a glimpse into some of the things students were wondering about.

Next time, I might plan to use cue cards and written questions. In retrospect, there is probably great value in allowing students to maintain their anonymity and in allowing everyone to ask a question. Even if I didn’t have the time to go through them all in class, I could follow up by writing my answers after class and sharing this with the students.

Bottom-line: I believe this was a worthwhile (and fun) use of a few minutes of class time at the start of the semester. We learned things about the students, they learned things about us, and I felt a bit vulnerable: Those are all good outcomes.


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