Welcome to One Class, One Day. This is a new feature brought to you by the CEHD Undergraduate Experience. In this project, the CEHD Student Writers will visit various classes offered through the college and report on the findings. This feature will give you an inside look at CEHD classes– without you even having to leave your pajamas and head to lecture.
One Class, One Day will showcase a variety of different classes in the college, but if there is a particular class you are curious to see on this blog, feel free to tweet @CEHDugrad with the hashtag #CEHDocod. The Student Writers look forward to bringing the classroom to you during the One Class, One Day project!
Intimate Relationships, in the Department of Family Social Science, is one of the most popular classes offered through the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. It focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of couples, and addresses topics such as courtship, dating, relationship problems and sexual orientation, through multiple theoretical perspectives. The class is held in an almost retreat-like way by integrating learning with self-reflection, which makes it especially captivating for many students.
Tai Mendenhall’s Rate My Professor page is flawless. The word ‘amazing’ appeared eight times on the first page of reviews alone. Students raved that Intimate Relationships changed their lives and that Mendenhall was “by far the best professor” they ever had.
When is the last time you seriously thought about the relationships in your life? When something bad happens and you’re feeling distressed, who do you turn to? Why, out of all of the people who come and go into your life, are you attached to them? These are the kinds of questions students consider in Intimate Relationships.
As students scribbled down the names of family and friends they turn to, it became evident that this class was more personal than most. Mendenhall tailored every abstract concept into an anecdote or thought exercise for a room full of young adults. Academic theory has never felt more relatable.
The class started on a lighthearted note: babies. As precious as they are, they require a labor of love.
“The only way you’re going to make something that takes this much work survive, is make it cute!” Mendenhall joked.
Responding to crying babies directly relates to how they attach to those around them as they mature.
“What they are doing is learning that in their lives they are worthy of being responded to,” he said.
The class took a more serious tone as Mendenhall shared a sobering story about a little girl faced with unimaginable tragedy.
While camping in a secluded location, a 6-year-old girl bumped into a picnic table and knocked a large container of coffee onto her, burning 60 percent of her skin. By the time she received medical attention, she had to live in a burn unit and have her skin removed to save her life from infection. Yet she didn’t express pain or sorrow. She simply did not say a word. Despite everyone’s best efforts, she kept silent for days while undergoing this excruciating experience. Finally, one day she asked the nurse,“Is it OK to cry?” And so she did, because someone finally showed her that her sadness is worthy of care. She was raised in an environment where crying was not encouraged or met with sympathy.
The lecture hall was silent as students let the impact of Mendenhall’s story sink in. Some even wiped away tears. It was clear everyone was moved. This was not the type of class you dread going to, fall asleep in, or half-pay attention to while you troll the internet.
Mendenhall then began an honest conversation about romantic relationships and how attachment theory plays a role in them. He showed images of happy couples on their wedding day and the mood was lifted. Our experiences attaching to our caregivers teach us something essential and priceless.
“We learn that people are good… That is an extraordinary way to walk through the world.”
To supplement his lecture, Mendenhall showed clips from movies to demonstrate how the theories play out in real life. Many of the topics hit so close to home, making this class one of a kind. It’s not surprising so many undergraduates across the University enroll in it.
Students were again asked to think about some big questions: How do I feel about me? How do I feel about others? Am I generally positive or negative? What do I do in my relationships? What are my patterns? How do I help or sabotage things with my partners?
“I see myself as a good catch. I see you as a good catch. And I see us as extraordinary,” said Mendenhall, explaining this is one of the best feelings in a relationship. “I love you… And more importantly, I love me… And then, I love us… That’s what I want all of us to have.”
The class ended on an inspiring note. He highlighted the special ability some people have to appreciate the good and not dwell on the bad.
“Maybe the glass isn’t even half empty, maybe the glass is empty. But oh my gosh! I have a glass! How cool is that?”
It was a neat way to conclude a class period that grappled some pretty heavy topics. Many of the students who take the class are undecided, and Mendenhall said that about 25 percent of his typical class either enrolls or switches to the FSoS major.
Mendenhall’s class is a must-take for any student interested in learning more about Family Social Science, relationships, or to understand themselves better. As someone said on Rate My Professor: This class is a life-changer.
Photo by juganue on DeviantArt