My Experience Teaching at San Quentin Prison

I had the privilege of teaching at San Quentin prison last summer. It was an eye-opening experience that taught me a great deal about stereotypes. My classroom was filled with eager and appreciative learners who delved into the texts and participated actively in the discussion of ideas. They brought their life experiences to the classroom in ways that enlivened and deepened my own understanding of texts that I had taught for years in independent schools. They reminded me of how individual experiences can overturn stereotypes.

In Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, Huck’s experiences with Jim on the raft floating down the Mississippi upended what Huck had been taught about race relations and black people by his white father and the “upstanding” Miss Watson and Widow Douglas. Because of Jim’s care and love for Huck, Huck was able to see past the stereotypes with which he had been raised and see Jim as a friend.