As he was leaving today, a student paid a compliment to my Hero with a Thousand Faces class. I’m not sure if I was meant to respond to the comment. I didn’t. We were chatting about our schedule on Thursday, which differs from a usual Thursday schedule for a lot of reasons that aren’t germane to this post. The student said something about liking the usual Thursday schedule because he can come in late (he’s a senior and must not have a class before mine) and go to a class that’s about more than just the text.
I have not given a lot of assignments in this class, but we have engaged in some deep discussions about Joseph Campbell and his ideas, and we are delving into a serious discussion of Star Wars at the moment. I really enjoy the class. Even without the carrot (or the stick) of grades looming over the students, they do the work, are involved in class discussion, and are engaged in the material. I conduct the class more like a college seminar than a standard required English class precisely because it is an elective.
The same student mentioned looking up information about Star Wars at home in his free time, completely unprompted by me, so he could learn more about it. He was impressed by the sheer amount of information online. Another student picked up the Harry Potter series for the first time because he was intrigued by some of the class discussion of how Rowling’s work displays Campbell’s influence.
A colleague of mine, a science teacher who often participates in the discussion and has really become a co-teacher in the class, has added so much to the class just by her enthusiasm and presence, often filling in gaps in information I have. I am not sure how the class would have differed without her presence because she has added so much to our discussion and to our understanding of the subject matter. She participates in the class during her planning time, which effectively causes her to lose time she could spend grading or planning lessons. I think the students have really come to appreciate her presence a great deal, and they miss her when she is unable to come.
I’m not sure if the student realized what a compliment I considered his statement. Some might interpret his words to mean we’re not doing enough “English” in the course, but I understood him to mean that we are engaged in larger discussions and conversations that involve the text, but also go beyond the text and are stimulating in some way he found it difficult to express in other words.
One of my goals in this class is to transform the way students read literature and watch movies, and I feel good about my progress toward reaching that goal.