Having a bigger say in our learning would be sweet

“Pick a candy from the box,” said my teaching assistant (TA), as I walked into the first tutorial of a new semester.

Puzzled, I reached in and grabbed a Kit Kat, wondering what was the purpose of this activity. Once everybody had gotten a piece of candy, my TA sat back down.

“While I do want you to introduce yourself by saying your name and your major,” she said, “I also want you to answer a question based on the candy you picked. If you picked a Kit Kat, tell me what your favourite movie is. Smarties, tell me one place in the world you would like to travel to one day. Aero, tell me what one of your hobbies is.”

She showcased that creativity throughout the rest of the semester as well. She’d create different ‘stations’ for our tutorial with a variety of activities, from discussing relevant articles to cutting out magazine clippings that showcased society’s image of a perfect body. I never knew what would be waiting for us when I walked through that door, and I found myself participating in engaging discussions, getting to know my classmates, and actually enjoying myself in class.

As a student in my fourth year, I have had my fair share of great classes and not so great ones. There are many forums where students share negative class experiences on the Internet. There are memes about stress and confessions about failing. We share stories about how we BS’d another paper, how we cried and stressed out while studying for an exam, and how exhausted we are at the end of the semester. But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

If I had to pick one thing that many classes at SFU lack, it would be choice. When my TA had us introduce ourselves based on the candy we picked, it showed me from the outset that she valued our thoughts, our opinions, and at a most basic level, who we were as people.

Another aspect of our education that is lacking is the fact that too much emphasis is placed on theory and books. While I don’t deny the value of that knowledge, I often find myself wondering, “How is what I am learning applicable to real life?” As a communication student, many of the theories overlapped in my classes, and I’d roll my eyes whenever my professor brought up a slide on the importance of the public sphere or the Frankfurt School yet again.

University is about growth, and learning who you are as a person and as a student. It is an environment where we not only can learn from an instructor, but from ideas brought forward by each other. And when an education is given that takes into consideration the opinions of students, everybody benefits from that learning experience. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Kit Kats the same way again.