Learning the Ropes
By Katie Montgomery
Matt Feehley, an adjunct professor in the English department, gave students more than they bargained for when they registered for his classes this semester by taking them on the high ropes course in the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
“A lot of times in this class we’ll have students write about some personal experience,” Feehley said. “So I thought it would be good to kind of force an experience on them collectively, and then have them write about that.”
The professor said he’s interested in seeing the different perspectives on one shared experience in the class.
“You and I may experience the same thing, but my perspective is totally different than yours. That’s what I’m looking to do,” Feehley said.
He said he hopes to accomplish more than just creating a paper topic with the ropes course.
“I want to create enthusiasm and excitement because everyone hates writing,” Feehley said.
Feehley has been telling the students about the ropes course since the start of the semester. As a result, many students said they have been feeling nervous or excited about it.
One of the participants, Morgan Oslowski-Parker, began to feel nervous before she put her harness on.
“I’m getting ready to opt-out right now,” she said.
As the instructors led the class upstairs to the course, Feehley encouraged a couple students who had been sitting alone silently to follow.
“There have been some people who’ve refused to do it. They feel like they’re physically or mentally incapable of doing it, which is fine,” he said. “But, they still have to come today, they still have to put the harness on, they still have to walk up there and they still have to be a spectator and a supporter, because that’s going to be another perspective.”
Within a few minutes, the students entered the ropes course one after the other. Some yelled encouragement to their classmates as they worked through the course, and others yelled in disbelief as planks moved when they stepped on them.
Throughout the course, students held out their hands to others as they struggled to exit an obstacle, and many offered to help hold or stabilize the ropes for their classmates.
Feehley said he was excited to see the teamwork and enthusiasm.
“It’s nice because in class they don’t really talk to each other, and today they were all chummy and having a great time,” Feehley said. “So I’m hoping that class discussions will become more interactive because they’re all more familiar with one another and have a shared experience they can talk about.”
After completing the course, the class gathered in the gym to discuss the event and the upcoming paper.
A lot of the students said it was a great topic for an experience paper, and others were surprised by how difficult it was.
Amos Haynes said that he was terrified before and during the event, but still made himself complete the course.
“I’m terrified of heights. My heart was racing the whole time,” he said. “I’ve got a few things I want to say now [in the paper] — some personal, emotional things, like being scarred for life.”
Feehley said he was happy with the effort the students made.
“There wasn’t anyone who didn’t try. I told them, ‘I’m really proud of you for taking that one step,’” Feehley said. “This is the first time anyone’s done this in my department. The real results will be after I get the writing and see what it’s produced.”