Teaching Inside: African-American Literature

June 11

Notable quotables from today’s classes:

*discussing subject/verb agreement*
 Me: When we use it colloquially…
 Student: What does that mean? Colloquially? 
 Me: *provides definition*
 Student: Oh ok. Well, from what you’re describing with singular and plural objects and conjugating verbs, it sounds like subject/verb DISagreement. 
 Me: Yeah, you can think of it that way. 
 Student: Yeah, so it’s like subject/verb beef. 
 Me: Yes. I will edit your papers with “verb beef” from now on. 
 Student: Now we’re being colloquial!

Student A: People call themselves Christians but they don’t do what the Bible says. What kind of faith is that?
 Student B: Well, religious expectations have changed over time. Like with me. I’d like to say I’m a pretty good Jew. Not the best but I live my life pretty well. 
 Student C: But you’re here. 
 Student B: Well, I did say “not the best.”

I’ve seen such growth in so many of these guys and it’s amazing to see the brain gears moving at higher speeds and seeing more connections being made between the classes they take.

An exhausting but fulfilling Sunday, as usual


June 16

I am blessed to do what I do. It is not possible, at this moment, to explain the magic of intellectual inquiry that just happened in my Af-Am Lit class. After assigning Washington and Du Bois’s chapters of “The Negro Problem” (thanks Marybeth Gasman!), the guys came into class ready to discuss.

In fact, two guys who were in the earlier Psychology seminar stayed and began the discussion, early, among themselves.

And it wasn’t the spirited conversation that got me emotional; the guys are animated all the time. It wasn’t the beliefs they were articulating; when you read and teach this literature, you expect a certain array of opinions.

It was how each of them challenged each other to PROVE what they were saying. I kept hearing:

“Son, that’s your opinion. Du Bois didn’t even say that!”

“Where in the text did you see that?”

“On page 7 of the Du Bois chapter, you see similarities to page 27 of Washington’s.”

“Your anecdote is not evidence. Point to it in the actual reading!”

“Don’t give me summary, yo, where is it in the primary source?”



Like. I can’t even. For educators, you know that integration of the text into arguments is an important part of critical inquiry and I was so pleased to see it take hold.

Tonight was a good night. It was a great night.