The only thing icebreakers break are my spirit.
The first week is a bore. Class after class you go over the syllabus, what’s expected, the honor code and the work. Seeing the workload increase in the schedule week after week, you imagine your social life deplete and deplete more and more. And then of course professors seem to think an icebreaker will surely get discussion going.
I strongly disagree.
I hate icebreakers. I don’t have a problem getting to know anyone. But the inorganic forced aspect of breaking the ice annoys me.
Seeing an extremely shy student stand and answer the bare essentials about themselves feels painful, almost. Common icebreaker favorites include two truths and a lie, providing your background info, tell the class something interesting about yourself and so on and so forth.
I fortunately enjoy public speaking, but this tedious task shakes me up as much as the nervous wreck next to me. “My name is DeLon. I’m from Milwaukee, WI. I like to travel.” I begrudgingly answer the allotted questions. It kills me a little more on the inside every time I do it. Multiply that death by five and you get me after the first week of school.
Somehow a professor this semester appropriately quantified my extreme disdain of this ritual. In this class we played “icebreaker bingo,” a mix between bingo and icebreakers. The person that you meet that fits one of the descriptions in the squares becomes your bingo chip.
The entire class looked around at people they knew and the rat race around the classroom soon began. I barely moved an inch in my seat before my desk attracted more traffic than a McDonald’s drive-thru. Finally, after the rush hour of people crowded my desk I got up to get “bingo” as quickly as possible. I honestly didn’t read each box I found two boxes in the top two lines that applied to me: a person from an urban city and a journalism major.
As I navigated the class the introductions ranged from actual greetings to people just shoving each other their papers. The silver lining to this activity? I did meet people with some interesting backgrounds. I met a guy from Lagos, Nigeria, a place I’ve always wanted to go. A trilingual girl revealed she could speak English, Spanish and a language I won’t dare butcher.
After meeting about 10 of my 30-something classmates we all started to read the entire bingo board. There were odd descriptions like a person that can name the number of student organizations and this ethnic groups exact number of students on campus. The oddest one read a person that can guess a person’s race by looking at them. The class is about leadership focusing on race and ethnicity, so we understood the reasoning, but it seemed a bit jarring to say the least.
Everyone met a few more people. Luckily, there were tour guides in the class whose job it was to know random demographic information about the campus. The professor also informed us we could write our name twice.
Then I noticed that I actually accomplished bingo and thought I would finally release us all from the rat race. I was first, too, but I was denied. “You have to complete the whole board,” the professor said with a half smirk.
He won. I lost. At that point it just became awkward. Everyone mulled around like zombies trying to recall faces to names they couldn’t remember.
I found the irony in this hilarious. Here we are, “icebreaking,” but half the class can’t even remember the faces of the people they met. I probably couldn’t tell you one person’s name.
Hence the base of why I think icebreakers are pointless. Nobody remembers people’s names afterwards unless there’s some wild, zany story associated with the person. But then the actual story overshadows that person’s name and any essential information they shared about themselves.
But, I digress. Finally, a few students began to get bingo as class time came to a close. We were all finally able to sit down in our seats. As the professor closed this riveting session, I couldn’t help but look around at everyone and wonder if they thought the same thing as me.
Did the icebreaker really break up some of the monotony of common class introductions? Yes. Did it get us moving? Yes. Did it actually help us get to know one another? Not really.