Broaden Your Horizons — Teaching Across the Generations

Where the old meets the new

In high school, my lit class was a little different than most. The teacher encouraged us to think outside the classroom experience, even though we were still in the class. One of the first books we read was of course The Great Gatsby. The year we read the book was also, by coincidence, the same year the movie starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was released. Not only did we read the book, but also were assigned to see the movie. This enabled us to fully discuss the symbolism in the work.

When we read To Kill a Mockingbird, we were actually able to set up a mock courtroom. All the players were there, the accused, accuser, DA, and defense attorney. We even had a jury. I played the part of the DA, and it was so much fun. But, through that experience, we were able to really dig into the book.

After leaving this class, the few times I thought that perhaps I should have gone to college earlier and become a teacher, that class was my model for the honors lit class I would have wanted to teach. This is the type of experience I want my students to have in my classroom.

Coming into a classroom as an instructor in this era, I will be facing challenges most of my peers will not. My experience and point of view comes from a different era than the Millenials and Gen “Zers” that will be filling my classroom. Most of their parents will be late Gen “X’ers” and early Millenials themselves. Therefore, they will have practically no concept of the Vietnam War, or its protests, the struggles of creating the Civil Rights or Feminist Movements, or even some of the music, literature or other media that came from that time. In my humble opinion, this was a very important time in American History. While this is an English class, I hope to use essays and arguments to broaden the horizons of these students in (selfish) hopes of keeping a small part of this era alive.

I also want to make a classroom a safe place where ideas are shared and topics explored. The concepts we learned will assist in making this ideal happen, especially since writing is a social and rhetorical activity. Even when we are sitting around a campfire, telling a ghost story, we are trying to persuade people either to believe what is being said or to be scared at the end of the story-telling. “We can expend time and energy writing whatever we want, but if our intended audience is not reached, then all of that work is for naught” (Cochran).

We do this by using recognizable forms, which is why I want to use music, other literature, classic vehicles, etc as the subjects of the papers that my students will be writing. Therefore, research will be a huge part of all these assignments. This is one small area of the concept that we all have more to learn, which will be explored even more in the review and revision process I intend to employ in my classes. I also believe that writing the different types of papers, in different styles will help students add to the identities and ideologies they have already formed and the history and stories they bring with them. “As an undergraduate, and especially now in graduate school, genre was and continues to be a huge subject” (Cochran).