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Discovering What Humanities Means to Me

In November, my Sophomore Humanities English class began our first experiment with integrating literature, history, and art. Our study focused on the social movements of anti-slavery and women’s suffrage in the 1800s and the movements which Forbidden Voices, specifically Yoani Sanchez, brought to our attention. As we came to a point of deciding on a culminating project, the students’ voices took control and they decided on developing their own social movements in small groups, and on topics that didn’t already carry societal weight so they would have to work from the ground up (think “No Christmas before Thanksgiving” or “Potty Problems: Bathroom Privacy Issues in High School”). The goal was to understand how to develop a social movement – what were the key ingredients that moved something from a fad to a movement – ideas like developing community and longevity.

Recently, after reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” as well as studying “The New Woman” movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s, my students collaboratively discussed a project that would involve their English and history studies as well as the current Fiber: Sculpture 1960-Present exhibit. We further discussed and researched oppression in general, and they decided to make their own yellow wallpaper.

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Yesterday, I gave a presentation on all of this at OCTELA, Ohio’s English Language Arts conference. Please see my presentation on DriveТ for more detail about both processes, and if you have questions, please email me ( I’d love to help youТ grow the process, partially because I know it will grow for me as well.

I’ve realized through the process of working on our yellow wallpaper and my presentation for OCTELA how much PAGES has changed my teaching this year. I incorporated “the arts” into my class in bits and pieces in the past, but it was when I saw my students’ yellow wallpaper come together on our class floor this last week and when I read a testimonial from one of my students (both of which can be seen in the presentation) I realized there is no going back. At the center of this is not only my desire to incorporate the arts into my teaching, but to foreground, as often as possible, our project directions with my students’ voices. As you’ll see in an example in the presentation, sometimes their brainstorming of ideas goes in directions I could never have imagined, and I’m so glad for that. Our understanding of the world and ourselves has grown so much this year because of our letting go of so many “rules” I had imposed on myself and my teaching. I’m excited to see where we go from here.

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