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Midsemester Evaluation

mmanzone's picture

When I was looking over the list of Emily Balch Seminars the first one that caught my attention was Play in the City.  Not only because I was thinking about being a Cities major but also because I’ve always wished I knew Philadelphia better.  This was going to be the perfect class: I’ll learn how to negotiate the city and how to write in college.  Killing two birds with one stone (or class, as the case may be).

Much like cities all over the world our little Play in the City class welcomes people from everywhere.  We have students from many states in the United States as well as some who have lived in Europe and China.  There are students who have grown up in one place and some that have moved around their whole life.  These varying backgrounds allow our group discussions to have more meaning as there are many different perspectives presented.  We get to hear about how our adventures in the city compare to those had in cities all around the world. 

“There were more people than back in China”

“I’m used to this. I grew up in D.C.”

“I was overwhelmed.”

I think this diversity is really what adds to our discussions and gives me exactly what I was hoping for in college: exposure to different cultures.  In this way Play in the City is exactly what I was expecting.  That is not to say, however, there aren’t changes that I feel need to be made.  

The biggest problem I have found is that I do not I have enough time to devote to my papers.  When I go into the city (on Saturdays as I have other classes on Fridays) I try to figure out what I’m going to write about.  I have yet actually been able to figure it out while I’m there.  On every paper so far I’ve really had to think about what I did in the city and what I’ve been asked to write about before I find a connection.  And then I have to submit the paper by Sunday night.  This doesn’t give me the time I feel I should be devoting to the class.  I think it would be better if we could possibly switch the short posting and essay due dates: posting a short comment by Sunday night and submitting a fully thought out paper on Wednesdays

The other main problem may just be a problem for me because of the type of learner I am but I feel that the prompts we are given make the papers unnecessarily hard.  I’ve always preferred math and science to English because there is always one right answer, not five or ten or twenty.  The prompts we are given are very much like the English-class prompts I have never understood; I just don’t think that way.  I’d rather write long scientific articles than try to decipher exactly what I’m being asked to write about.  Similarly, I’ve found that we tend to be asked many different questions for one short paper.  While I realize that this openness is designed to free us from any constraints, it makes the papers harder for me.  I’d rather be given one thought provoking question than six confusing ones.

I also think it would be interesting if we could watch movies (or documentaries even) and analyze them.  I’ve always found movies stick with me longer than readings and I feel it would be a nice change of pace and a way for us to find different ways of viewing and playing in the city.  I don’t really know what movies would work and the only thing that comes to mind right now is Koyaanisqatsi.  Koyaanisqatsi (Hopi indian for “unbalanced life”) was made in the 1980s and has no real characters and consists pretty much solely of time-lapse footage of various places (cities, parks, natural wonders).  While it doesn’t show Philadelphia specifically (at least not that I’m aware of), it does show the changes from a peaceful natural world to a high paced metropolis.  I’ve seen it once before when I was about eight.  I didn’t understand it at all but I think that if we were to analyze it in Play in the City it could spur some very interesting conversations.