Thursday, July 28, 2011
It's now that time of year when I realize that summer will soon end, classes will start, and my syllabus needs an update. Which has me thinking about a recurring problem with my environmental law course: day 1.
I know what I want to accomplish. I want to give the students some sense of the content of the course, and why it matters, and I want them to walk away thinking that the course will be intriguing, engaging, and challenging. I also want to convince them--lost cause, perhaps--that in my classes, at least, they should never follow Twitter or Facebook, buy anything on EBay, check espn.com, or do all the other things I know perfectly well that some of them will spend half the semester doing. And I want to give them a story or case or other little tidbit that provides a preview of and window into the wonders of environmental law. Instead, I usually wind up providing a somewhat dull course summary, then do some climate change 101, then try to extract participation from students who seem like they just need a little more coffee to get through the post-summer hangover. Class two usually is great, as is everything else until the students crash into the Clean Air Act like bugs spattering onto a windshield. But class one, to me, usually feels like a dud.
So, dear readers, what to do? This blog hasn't provoked a lot of commentary, but we know you're out there. Professors, how do you dazzle your students on day one? Students, current and former, what works for you? I'd love to know.