Imagine sitting in a room, eyes closed, and a soothing voice directing you to breathe slowly, to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. A rhythm soundtrack plays gently in the background. With each inhale you grow more conscious, more aware; each exhale pushes your stresses and anxieties away. Slowly you open your eyes, stand up, and walk around the room. The dreamlike state you feel is reflected on the faces around you. The music changes, becomes more energetic. You feel awake. Where are you?
If you guessed a yoga workshop—you’re wrong—though you might find similar practices there. This is how English faculty member, Alexander Andrews starts many of the classes he teaches at EMCC. Though his methods might be thought of as “unorthodox” by some, he is not without reason.
In 2009 Andrews attended a session at the “Learning College Summit” entitled “Creating a Dynamic and Student Centered Learning Environment” where he learned the connection between mind and body. The instructor integrated music and stretching to put the workshop attendees at ease, which was different from the traditional “get out your books and let’s begin” start that Andrews expected. He also learned about the value of keeping a fluidly moving, dynamic classroom by incorporating subtle changes, such as volume and tempo of music.
“If the body stays dormant for too long, it actually starts to affect your thinking,” said Andrews. Realizing the benefits of music and movement to physically and cognitively stimulate students, Andrews found the exercises yielded results, were fun, and broke up the monotony of the conventional classroom.
Former student, John Cox recalled learning from Andrews’ approach, “At first, the exercises seemed a little funny, but then I realized it was to wake us up. It was clear from the beginning that he’s passionate about what he’s doing, although his class was different from what I was used to. His high expectations helped me become a better writer and student in general.” Cox is one of many who embraced the classroom oddities. For those who felt uncomfortable, participation was encouraged, but opting out was okay too.
Andrews’ focus is to create an interactive classroom with student centered classes and heavy emphasis on peer communication. Andrews finds it important to get students out of the classroom, and works with other instructors to integrate projects such as using paintings from art students as poetry prompts. Class trips to events around campus are not uncommon, as Andrews strives to develop his student’s social consciousness about culture and fosters global mindedness.
If you are still unsure about taking a class with Andrews, it might be a good idea to check out his reviews on Ratemyprofessor.com. The website rates teachers on a scale from one to five in categories such as easiness, clarity, helpfulness, and overall quality. It relies solely on student feedback and includes comments from previous students. At the end of the spring semester of 2013, Andrews scored on the higher end with a 4.2 in overall quality and helpfulness and a 4.1 in clarity. Reflecting Cox’s previous statement of high expectations, students rate Andrews 2.5 on easiness.
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, straightforward, color-inside-the-lines class, steer clear of Professor Andrews. However, if thinking outside the box and learning more than just course material appeals to you, check out one of the following classes he *teaches: English 101/102, African Americans in Film, Rap Literature, and American Indian Literature. These will challenge you academically and evolve you metaphysically. Yoga pants not required!
*While Professor Andrews teaches all of these classes, the availability of each course varies per semester. Be sure to consult the EMCC class schedule for section availability.