happy new year & Street Humanities

Happy new year!

Tonight I will start my volunteer teaching gig for the Street Humanities Program at our college. This is a program for marginalized men and women who would like to take non-credit college courses to dip their toes back into education after having been away from school for a long time. It is modelled after The Clemente Course, similar to UBC’s Humanities 101 program. I’ve volunteered for this program before, teaching Intro to Women’s Studies, and most recently in the fall of 2013, teaching Short Fiction.

This year I’ll be doing a Short Fiction module again, but I’ve chosen to include not only short stories and poetry, but a short play as well. Tomorrow we will start by listening to a recording of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” and reading W.S. Merwin’s poem “To the New Year.” We will meet once a week for 3 hours per class, for four weeks, all through the month of January. Last time I had thought we would meet for 3 hours per session, but it turned out only 1.5 hours of the time was mine and the first 1.5 hours was for another instructor. That was fine but it meant I had to ditch some of the longer pieces I had initially planned to do with them, and some of the poetry, because we didn’t really have time. I quite like the idea of having them for 3 hour blocks, because it means for the last class we can read an entire play (The Baby Blues, by Drew Hayden Taylor). I think they’re going to enjoy that–every class I’ve done a DHT play in has really embraced the humour and the Aboriginal context (Street Humanities, like our upgrading program, has a high proportion of Aboriginal students).

I tried to choose literature that met three criteria:

  1. could be read out loud in class/listened to in class (each class is 3 hours long, once a week for four weeks)
  2. would be high interest and/or relevant to students’ experiences
  3. would stimulate lots of discussion.

The coordinator for the Street Humanities program let us know that the students really like getting handouts like course outlines that have course info and a topic list, so I have made one to give them. It’s not a for-credit course, but there’s no reason we can’t have things like course outlines and have them begin to think of themselves as college students.

I recently read about the concept of the graphic course syllabus, so I thought this would be a good way to give it a try, since this one doesn’t have to be as long or as detailed as it would for a regular class.

If you’d like to see what I came up with (and see what play, stories and poems I’ll be doing with the class), you can check out the syllabus here.

2 thoughts on “happy new year & Street Humanities

  1. mworfolk says:

    Thank you! It went really well. We listened to the AM Homes reading of the story: http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/a-m-homes-reads-shirley-jackson

    The students seemed to be very engaged and we had a great discussion, even though some of them were pretty appalled by the story’s outcome!

    We talked about how Jackson had written it after WWII, how it’s an exploration of human nature–why do people carry on with the traditions they have, how can people be so casual in the face of cruelty. I asked if they felt it had any relevance today and they said YES definitely!

    Happy new year to you!

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