My students had their first IF discussion this week. They talked for about 50 minutes, then we spent about 15 minutes debriefing as a group before I met individually with the three facilitators.  I started the debriefing by having them free write to prompts about what went well, what didn’t, what they learned, and what would make the process better. Amid a bunch of stuff I expected to find (feelings of uncertainty about doing this for the first time, cheers for the facilitators), I found some really insightful writing about dealing with disagreement and coming to terms with difference in the groups (I will also mention that by far the most noted thing that would improve discussions was simply “snacks”).

So today I took a few minutes from my discussion of Franklin (self-made hero or anal self-congratulator?) to talk about the difference between “Yes, and” and mere relativism, how to open yourself up to new ideas and points of view and engage by standing up for what you think, too. I think it’s a challenging balance for the students, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out.

I felt like I’ve spent maybe too much time talking about the process of discussion to the class, while I haven’t given them enough tools to make the discussion good. Students tended to glaze over when I talked about how to be a good facilitator (something I’ve never taught before, and is interesting to me, at least), but wanted more on how to make the lightning round work or how to use the ideas that came out of it. Like David, I tend to be a very intuitive teacher. I met with each of the facilitators and note-takers before the class to talk about using the lightning round and preparing for the discussion, but when they started I quickly saw they needed more. I’ll have to work on that.

I did have the kind of moment Sue often talks about after the first discussion. A junior English major I’ve taught lots and who’s is a solid B student led one of the groups and did a beautiful job. It felt really great to be able to praise her afterward and tell her what a great model she had provided for her group members. It made both of us happy, almost as much as a snack.