Monday, June 22, 2015

Learning the Basics

Part of the trail I ran
Today has by far been one of my most productive and fun days of the summer, as well as of this trip.  My roommate, Andrew, and I woke up at around seven in the morning.  He had to get up early because he had to tackle the first day of his Hotel Management program while I had to tackle a 40 minute jog around the campus.  Today was the first day of Cross Country season, as well as my Debate and Rhetoric course, two activities I am incredibly excited to pursue going forward with my time at Cornell.  I threw on my running shoes and clothes proceeded to go through my routine of a three lap warm-up around the Mary Donlon building, a brisk stretch, and then a run around the campus.  I followed the route that I took on the tour yesterday, while combined elements of roads and trails.  The weather wasn't too hot or humid, which was one of my primary motivations for getting up so early.  I made my way to Cornell's football field and track, then headed back towards my dorm to shower and eat.  On my way back, I recognized a lot of faces, a testament to how many of the countless people I was getting to know at Cornell.  After finishing up my run, I showered and ate quickly.  I had to watch what I ate in comparison to the previous two days because this would not be the first day I run during my stay.  The food was incredibly tasty nonetheless.

After eating and showering, I read my baseball statistics book and browsed my phone until I fell asleep.  I woke up around 11:30 and got ready for my class.  I realized that I wouldn't have a lot of time to eat, so I rushed to the lunchroom and grabbed two slices of pizza along with some water.  While I was there, I met Emmanuel, a student in Debate and Rhetoric, as well as a resident on my floor.  I'd seen him, but I hadn't really gotten to know him until then.  We talked about where we were from, what there was to do there, what the Ivy League Connection was (of course), and our backgrounds in debate.  I finished up around 11:50 and we both walked to our classroom, picking up Helen along the way.  During the walk to class, we all discussed what we could expect from the course, what we've done in the past in terms of public speaking, and debate formatting.  It took us a little while to find out where our classroom was, but we were able to find the teaching assistant Austin Thoma and he pointed us in the right direction.

The classroom
To say that the class was interesting and engaging would be a drastic understatement.  Dr. Sharkey walked into the classroom at around 12:30, right when the class started.  He was wearing a gray Star Wars shirt in I believe Japanese, which eased my anxieties because it allowed me to realize that the course wouldn't be serious and strict, but rather free-flowing.  The class started off with Dr. Sharkey asking us all to stand up and put our hands at our sides.  He briefly explained the importance of body language, then we went into some interesting speaking warmups.  First, he told us to breathe in for five seconds then breathe out for five seconds.  This eases anxiety when it comes to public speaking.  Next, he told us to essentially hit the various vocal notes to where a student could either feel the vibrations in their throat or in their chest.  This, I assume, warms up the vocal chords.  Finally, he had us slowly say the phrase "20 dwarves took turns doing handstands on a red carpet" because this phrase exercises about every vocal chord in the human body.  

Following that little ice breaker, we went into the course syllabus briefly.  Much of the class is based on participation and effort in debates, along with tests and finals.  There are 15 sessions and each of them have a groundwork in place.  Then, all the students were handed an paper regarding the philosophical teaching of Socrates in relation to gender.  While describing Socrates message, Dr. Sharkey related the message with forms of argumentation, such as form, content, logos, pathos, and a thesis.  At around the 2:30 mark, the room was divided into two sections and the two sections of the class were posed with the defending or attacking the following stance: Binding gender is a productive way to think about the world.  Our side was against the proposition and about all 10 of us worked very hard and intelligently to come up with a great argument opposing that stance.  Both sides presented their case in a pretty convincing argument on both sides, then the class concluded.  It was an incredibly fun first day and during the course of the class, I made sure to get my little tidbits of conversation in there. 

Flinging a frisbee 
The rest of the day was realatively chill.  With nothing to do, I retreated back to my dorm and read the Debate and Rhetoric book as homework until dinner time.  Following dinner, I again read the book and took some notes on the chapters that we were assigned.  At around 7:00, Stephen and I went down to the front of the RPCC center for a brief meeting with Mr. Chan-Law regarding a little bit of internal business amongst the Ivy League Connection.  After the conclusion of the meeting, Stephen, Helen and I played frisbee together and with some students that hopped in until I retreated back to my homework to, again, read and, now, blog.  It has been an fantastic first day of school and of cross country and I cannot wait to get back in the classroom for more engaging conversations and debates.  

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