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24 December, 2016

Medieval Atlanta, Revisited

Here is my favorite reflection by one of the students (all of them were in engineering, computing, computational media, and business) in the fall semester's Medieval Atlanta class:

"Are we actually supposed to talk about just one thing here? Teachers like it when you write more, right? In my opinion, the best part of your class was the format. Maybe that's a boring answer. Maybe you'd prefer I say something about what I learned (And I did learn a lot, more than I expected from a course with such a crazy title -- No offense!) But, for me anyway, Medieval Lit and Culture was about method more than material. I've suffered through so many years of school (fewer than you, I guess), but before yours, I couldn't say I'd ever had a class I enjoyed every single time we met. I've had fun in my other classes, but none of them have been designed for fun, not really. I seem to remember my teachers saying, in every grade, all my life, we need to make education fun. They tried by having us play basket ball with crushed paper and trashcans maybe twice a month. Or by giving us the last 15 minutes to work with your group. Your class made real education desirable and engaging on more than an intellectual level (although, on an intellectual level, too). I think more teachers need to be like you. I get, though, that it wasn't all about fun. I think as well that the format was conducive to learning. There are obvious advantages to having such a small class, for one. But additionally, although I personally hate presentations, I think that the final presentation was a really good thing. My major specific courses have been pretty presentation oriented, but every time before I've been up there with my team. I don't think I've ever spoken beyond five minutes like that. It was truly terrifying. But, at least for the others, it seemed like a great experience with public speaking. Then again, I guess the class size enabled the presentations, too. Finally, I just wanted to say that I loved the material! Most of it, at least. Medievalism. It seemed so obscure, at first. But it's not, is it? I encounter the Middle Ages every time I go for a drive (I've been making fun of buildings without pointed arches). And I've lived in the Middle Ages all my life, it turns out. From Harry Potter to Game of Thrones (Sorry). It's always been there, it was just invisible before. So I suppose you've  given me new eyes. Specifically, I liked all the different subjects you pulled together. It was fascinating learning etymology. Just like medievalism, some etymologies blew me away. How did I not see it before? Then there were some other words. Hlafweard. I enjoyed the literature you had us read, especially Ivanhoe. And, I guess this is core for medievalism, but I enjoyed how you always tied the present to the past."

Now, for balance I should mention that students also remarked they would have wanted more exams or other feedback earlier during the semester, and that I should have offered more opportunity in the first half of the semester for student discussion. Good to know for the future.