Friday, May 17, 2013
May 17, 2013: End of Semester Thoughts, Part Five
[As another semester wraps up, a series on some AmericanStudies lessons I’ve learned from my courses and students this spring. Share some of your semesters, won’t you?]
On a very important rejoinder, or at least complement, to yesterday’s post.
If Capstone provided one set of inspiring voices for me this spring, my group of ALFA (Adult Learning in the Fitchburg Area) students provided another, equally inspiring community with which I was deeply fortunate to be able to work. Moreover, if my inspiring soon-to-be-graduates make me at times frustrated with the state of the nation and world, the ALFA students—a group of 10 women in their late 50s and above—make clear that no one generation has a monopoly on impressiveness, and that the world is as full of goodness as it is of problems. They had amazing thoughts on the five contemporary short stories we read and discussed—but they also of course had a great deal more to say, and I wanted to highlight just two of those conversations here.
Many of the students are retired teachers, and their experiences in the classroom came up on numerous occasions during our five discussions. But it was before our final discussion that a couple of the students shared a particularly interesting and inspiring idea: the creation of an Education Museum, perhaps housed at or at least connected to Fitchburg State (which began as a Normal School and remains one of the state’s premiere trainers of young educators). As these students argued, our increasingly digital and online world can make it hard to connect to the histories and materials that comprise the last century (and more) of public education in America—which makes it that much more important that we try to find ways to create such connections. I’m honored to be talking about this particular idea with these folks!
Perhaps the most important thing I can say about teaching an ALFA class, though—and the most important rejoinder to any sense, in this series overall or in yesterday’s post in particular, that I have the answers and am just passing them along to students—is how much I learned from each and every student in it. Learned not only about education, life, America, the world, but also about the course’s specific topic and focus, as I got a ton of great reading and author recommendations. Also on the last day, for example, one of the students brought in a recent issue of the New York Times Book Review in which a ton of up-and-coming new authors are featured, most of which I haven’t yet heard of. Which is to say, of the countless reasons I love teaching ALFA courses, none is more crucial than the reminder of how much I still have to learn.
Forward-looking post this weekend,
PS. Spring semester experiences you’d share?