By: Encina Roh, SFU Student
The first week of classes brings a slog of student complaints about returning to our disassembled university for yet another punishing semester. There is something especially irritating about the first step you take back into the halls of SFU after bidding adieu to last term with passionate finality.
It can seem pointless to come back for barely an hour during syllabus week. For the most part, it seems as though we don’t really do much. We show up, we hear the professor read us the syllabus, and we exchange names we have no hope of remembering next week. If we’re lucky, we may even get a short lecture where everyone — even the professor — looks anxious to leave.
However, despite how unnecessary this all seems to be, a lot of useful things happen in the first classes of the semester. The opening week serves as a crucial transition between the relaxation of a long break and settling back into the attentive mentality that school demands. An extended break followed by an immediate start to course content could shock students harder than a gentler lead-in does. I know that my first class back after a long break from school would feel far more overwhelming if I were hit with heavy lectures, piles of reading, and rigorous seminars right away.
For the most part, professors and lecturers use the first week of classes to provide a general overview of the course content and answer questions. This model helps to ensure that students have a chance to consider the class holistically before committing three months to study its material, and, you know, pay the tuition. Unsatisfied students then have the opportunity to enrol in a different class, secure in the knowledge that they haven’t missed out on anything too significant in the switch. Simply jumping right into lecture content might not allow students the breathing room to fully understand what each course entails.
Whether or not you find the first week of classes annoying, it’s hard to argue that they are unnecessary. I know the commute up for a 30-minute lecture feels like a waste of time (and sleep), but the existence of first-week classes not only let students settle back into university life but also helps them finalize their course selections. Returning to school after so much time spent unwinding is difficult, but I am certain that I would much rather be eased into the process of learning than leap straight from the high dive into a massively intellectual conversation or assignment.
Without a warm-up class, I might just embarrass myself in front of the professor on the first day. I’d rather do that slowly over the course of the entire semester than offer all I have to give right upfront.