Does Pitt hold classes in the Nationality Classrooms?
January 13, 2008 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Are classes actually run in the "Nationality Classrooms" at the University of Pittsburgh? If so, has anyone here had a class in one, and what was it like? I'm interested in acoustics, distraction, etc. -- i.e. things you'd think of as a classroom designer or a teacher.
posted by media_itoku to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes most of the rooms are used for classes. I had a linguistics class in the Greek room and after the first day the location was not a distraction at all. The room was a little different from traditional US classrooms, we all sat at one large table, but it worked well for the class format. There was also a chalkboard that could be hidden by shutters if there was a call for the room to look less like a modern classroom.
posted by Alison at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2008

You can't make any real generalizations - some rooms are fine; some are disastrous. I had several classes in the English room, which was great for atmosphere but annoying for trying to use a laptop because the desks were so tiny. Ditto for the French room. I never had any classes in the African Heritage room, but a friend of mine did and grumbled about chair comfort.

The distraction level isn't really a problem unless the students are first-semester freshmen caught off-guard by "whoa, there's murals on the walls!"

Acoustics never really bothered me, but I tended to sit near the front, so I may not have experienced the worst of it.

All told, the experience was generally... unremarkable. Granted, something like half my nationality-room experiences were in the French and English rooms, but generally, after the first week I'd stopped noticing my surroundings at all and it was just like any other classroom, albeit with occasionally-more-awkward seating problems and the inability to have a soda out.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:02 PM on January 13, 2008

yup! i grew up in pittsburgh and often took summer classes at pitt. i remember i had a few in the israeli room and the armenian room. there wasn't anything particularly noteworthy about the acoustics or anything. it was just kind of pleasant, not too distracting or strange.
posted by timory at 4:39 PM on January 13, 2008

i've had a portuguese class in the lituanian room and the desks were tiiiiiiiiny and uncomfortable, also you're not really allowed to move anything around. some professors follow these rules, others don't, but it makes it difficult for group work.

i had spanish in the french room and there wasn't much distraction, aside from all of the gold everything.

i've also had a class in the hebrew(?) room and it was totally neat, stone murals that slid aside to reveal the blackboard, but not real desks, more like stone benches...again, impossible for group work.

so some are really, really neat, others are just rather uncomfortable for classes.

you can tour the nationality rooms though.
posted by thisisnotkatrina at 5:16 PM on January 13, 2008

I've taught courses at Pitt in a nationality room. I hated it! There are lots of rules about what you can and cannot do with the furniture, and the nationality room police pop in and check the garbage to ensure that students aren't eating in the classrooms. Basically, I had to enforce a bunch of dumb rules all semester that made things reasonably difficult. They're pretty to look at but not very functional. Any time I get assigned to a nationality room I promptly change my room assignment.
posted by theantikitty at 8:00 PM on January 13, 2008

That would be the "Israel Heritage Room," thisisnotkatrina.

I never minded the nationality rooms as much as some. There was something about the Olde Fashioned atmosphere that I found helpful -- combined with the sort of studious, monastic vibe that the Cathedral as a whole has, it was actually easier for me to focus than it was in a shiny new lecture hall.

But yeah, some of them are badly suited for some types of class. I remember a few that sat everyone around a big central table, which was bad if you had a professor who liked to stand and talk or to do board work. Others force you to face forwards, making it hard to have a whole-class discussion. And every prof for every class I ever had in one griped about having to enforce the food and drink rules.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:51 AM on January 14, 2008

Hated them as an instructor / like them as a student.

I had the same experience as the theantikitty as an instructor in the Nationality rooms; especially in the classes in the morning or late afternoon when students really really want to bring their caffeine in. Also teaching anything chalkboard intensive was rough, since the boards tended to be decorative rather than practical. Not moving the furniture was the worst for me. Air conditioning could have been better too, but that was true of the entire Cathedral.

That said, I actually liked having classes in there usually. There was just something so scholarly about attending classes surrounded by all that culture.
posted by DarthDuckie at 7:30 AM on January 14, 2008

Had classes in several of them. Hated almost all of them.

- The English room is set up to be like the House of Commons, where the two main parts of the class face each other, with the blackboard off to one end. . . which means you're usually spending the entire class turned to one side. That class gave me a terrible neckache, every time, on top of the usual pain in the ass ness of the small writing surfaces and the uncomfortable wooden bench seats. . .

- The Indian room is kind of like thisisnotkatrina's description of the Israel room, only the benches are wood, not stone. Annoyingly, they've got indentations for your butt in the seat, but they're made for someone with a smaller ass than anyone who was in my class. . . . This room also has giant stone pillars pretty much right in the middle of the room. I think the class I had in here lasted about two weeks before we got it moved.

- The Romanian room is pretty normal, only with a mosaic mural in the back and an alcove in the bay window where they put up a Christmas tree every winter. This was the only nationality room I didn't actively mind having class in; and it was always kind of funny when random tourists would burst in the room and look shocked that people were actually having class in a classroom.....
The chairs were a little undersized, but nothing out of the ordinary for Pitt, where almost all the chairs and desks seem to get ordered from the OfficeDepot in Hobbiton. . .
posted by FlyingMonkey at 4:33 AM on February 28, 2008

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