If you haven’t been reading me for a while, you might not know that I am VERY collaborative. I’m TICKLED when someone emails me to ask if I’ll share resources with them (I get a lot of hits from Google for “film in the classroom” and “film and literature,” and I’ve shared my film and lit syllabi and eight-year plans with about 7 readers so far… by the way, if you’re one of them, hit me up and let me know how your class went / is going, wouldja?).
It’s because I’m so willing to share what I have that I’m also willing to ask for what I need, and I need some help.
OKAY, Smart People: I am not going to lie to you; I’m freaking out a little bit about teaching this humanities class.
I’m teaching a range of freshmen – and by “a range,” I mean I’ve got kids in class who are obviously hooked into this English/history thing and are eager to play the game, and I’ve kids who, let’s be honest, would probably have to work up a sweat to care any less than they do about this class. I’ve got kids who are fairly confident readers (and who, by the looks of the few things they’ve written for me so far, are pretty competent writers) and kids who are really not. I’ve got kids who come into class vibing at least some energy and a few who come in dragging tail (though, to be fair, the new schedule is, I think, not going to last past this school year. My current schedule is two humanities classes back to back; one for AN HOUR AND A HALF, FIRST THING IN THE MORNING, EVERY DAY – and yes, I meant to yell that – and the other is 45 minutes immediately following that class. In January, the sections will flip, so the skinny block kids will occupy the long block and vice-versa. It’s brutal, and I’m going to suggest that, next year, we try a college-style, M/W/F, T/TH schedule but, for now, I’ve got what I’ve got).
My problem (and I can see it clearly) is that “humanities” usually covers everything from pre-historic Egyptian culture to, you know, yesterday, taking into account nearly EVERY aspect of human culture and society; politics, literature, fine art, music, theatre, economics, religion, language… you get the idea. Now, I’m smart enough to know two things: A) even though I’ve got a whole year with these kids (for AN HOUR AND A HALF, FIRST THING IN THE MORNING, EVERY DAY! ah-hem. Sorry; that’s a thing for me), there’s NO POSSIBLE WAY I’m going to be able to get through everything and B) even if I COULD, the kids really couldn’t take it. More to the point, *I* don’t really see the VALUE in slogging through the whole catalogue of human existence, so I can’t really justify that kind of slog to the kids.
So far, I’ve covered:
Beyond that, though, I’m kind of struggling to make a comprehensive, coherent, and cohesive plan.
So, here’s where you, the aforementioned Smart People, come in. If you were to take my humanities course, what aspects would you want that course to highlight (given that you can have literally everything from pre-historic Egypt to, you know, yesterday)? What are the important things that you think we need to understand from our collective past that help us to understand our collective present? What kinds of concepts, big ideas, or key themes should kids get spit out of high school really understanding? What can they learn in my classroom that’s going to make their lives richer, easier, and more productive?
I have pretty much complete academic freedom here; there’s no textbook, which is both a blessing and a curse; it means I don’t have to follow an arbitrary framework, but it also means I have no guidance and no materials ready-made for me. I have computers for every student and there is pretty regular internet access. I can use film, I have a great art teacher across the hall, and the history teacher and I are buddies, so there’s some decent support there. If I’m creative enough (and have enough lead time), I can probably get any materials I need.