Friday, December 14, 2018
December 14, 2018: Fall Semester Recaps: Adult Learning Communities
[The final papers are coming in and the blue books have entered the building, so it must be the end of another semester. This week I’ll recap some inspiring moments from my Fall 2018 semester, and I’d love to hear some of yours in comments!]
On takeaways from my continuing connections to three great adult learning programs.
1) Beacon Hill Seminars: This fall I connected for the first time with this adult learning program, and had the chance to lead a seminar on America in the Gilded Age. I can’t lie, perhaps the coolest part was getting to teach the class in the neighborhood’s historic William Prescott House! But as with every adult learning program for which I’ve taught, I was also and especially struck by the amazing breadth and depth of experiences and knowledge that the students brought. For example, we were talking about the history of immigration laws and their effects, and a student shared her family’s story of immigrating after the 1920s Quota Acts, and of having to move first to South America as a result of that more restrictive era. Each student in a class like this brought equally compelling such stories to the mix, and the result was another amazing adult learning experience for their professor.
2) ALFA: My latest Adult Learning in the Fitchburg Area (ALFA) class is ongoing as I write this, and in any case I’ve written a great deal in this space over many years about how much ALFA means to me. So here I’ll note more generally the ways in which adult learning classes and programs force us to rethink how we teach and talk about familiar topics. In this case, the class topic, Voices of Resistance in American History, is very close to the focus of my forthcoming book, so much so that I thought about just giving them chapters of the book as readings. But then I realized that a class isn’t the same as a book, and that shared readings to discuss aren’t the same as my individual voice and writing; so I had to step back and think about ways to present some of the same histories and topics for this kind of audience and conversation, and to draw out their voices and ideas. It’s working well so far, and a good skill to keep practicing in any case!
3) BOLLI: After the initial connection to Brandeis’ adult learning program that I highlighted in that post, I had the chance to teach one class for them, and enjoyed it very much. Our respective schedules have made it difficult to find room for a second such class, but I’ve managed to keep the connection going by giving a couple of one-off lectures for them. This fall I gave such a talk on contemporary African American fiction, highlighting and contextualizing works by Tayari Jones, Jesmyn Ward, Paul Beatty, Imbolo Mbue, Attica Locke, and Colson Whitehead to discuss different threads and trends in both current American literature and the long tradition of African American lit. The talk forced me to both read and think about works outside of my regular range of classes, books that I greatly enjoyed but might not have had time or space in my schedule for without this prompting. One more reason to celebrate and continue my connection to these adult learning programs!
Spring preview this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Semester reflections you’d share?