American Literature, American Learning Recap 3/9

American Literature, American Learning

Wednesday, March 9

“[we must] try to help entering students discover a new relationship to learning. The most thoughtfully prepared, witty or provocative lecture cannot do this… the first needs of our freshman are for something else—for a kind of classroom in which students find themselves having to learn for themselves, and to teach each other, more than they have ever been asked to do. The value of this is not merely to “increase participation” but to break, once and for all, the modes and patterns which 12 years of public or parochial education have left as their legacy. When he/she can get rid of that legacy, the student can approach the lecture or the textbook or any other medium with an entirely different relationship. He will no longer accept it passively as an agent acting upon his mind, but as one of many materials on which his mind can act.”

— Adrienne Rich

1. Housekeeping: did everyone receive an email from Cathy with long comment about class so far and specific feedback (and grade) for Midterm Syllabus?

2. 30 minutes- Syllabus Jam Revise and Resubmit –Cathy and Danica

Current editable Google-Doc version of Syllabus, with comments:

In class today, we’ll begin with some collaboration exercises that might result in revising the collaborative syllabus.

Remember our adage: We cannot counter structural inequality with good will; it can only be countered by structuring equality. One way of doing that is, in any collective decision, taking some time, reflecting, going back, and then ensuring that all voices were heard and possibly, collectively again, making revisions to admit those voices.

NB: Since Danica and Cathy were not in the class on Wednesday March 2, those who were there will need, collectively, to listen to the exercises in inclusion tonight and to really participate as active listeners.

On the blog, we’ve heard that a number of people left the room feeling as if they had not been heard.   Of course! That is what one would expect. We’ve learned many new tools that structure equal voice–that ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak—and we’ll be using those again tonight to now go back and see if we want to revise, if there are unheard voices that might still help enrich this FABULOUS syllabus you have already designed–and in which there is always room for more fabulosity [NB: not a real word].

Part of syllabus-building exercise is to ensure that everyone is heard, everyone is represented, because we’ve seen in class that the quieter students, when there is a structure to have a voice, have valuable insights to offer to everyone.

This is not a criticism. Learning new ways of interacting is a process.   The great futurist Alvin Toffler wrote: “The literacy of the 21st century is learning, unlearning, and relearning.” UN-LEARNING is the very hardest thing we do.

It means being knowledgeable about the history that got us to our place of learning, deconstructing that history by evaluating it backwards from our present needs and circumstances and results and practices, making a conscious effort to un-learn those resulting practices, and then—after all that—to try the new, to learn again.


EXERCISE #1:   Write on the card one word about the group activity last Wednesday. (10 seconds)

Write on the card one word that describes YOUR participation in the group last Wednesday. (10 seconds)

Go around the room   —Danica, can you please record the words on the board so people can see them



EXERCISE #2: Think Pair Share Read the above statement.

Think Pair Share: 90 seconds

  • What one thing did you really want to contribute to the collaborative syllabus that you don’t feel is represented?
  • If you feel several things you wanted were accepted into the general syllabus, what one thing would you take away so that something else might be represented.
  • Given the syllabus that the group has made, can you think of a way it might still be included?


NOTE: We’ll put up the post-its again and see about possible edits. We’ll have multiple copies of the syllabus to work on .




III.   Arin, Nicky, and Kelly

10 minutes – Arinn will lead a teaching exercise based on one of the readings


5 minutes – Interested participants will sign up to do the same for future weeks


15 minutes – Nicky – Goal of Activity: Discuss 6 one sentence statements by famous philosophers’ on their thoughts of teaching and learning and how it relates or doesn’t relate to students’ individual beliefs. 10 minutes – Kelly Myers Briggs Activity (Will need large paper)


30 minutes – Kelly Small Group discussion followed by larger group discussion around readings


6 mins -Nicky –


Exit Ticket – Will need notecards (glows/grows for the first student lead class)



The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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