planning and skilled craftsmanship,” write Beth Sattes and Jackie Walsh in Questioning for Classroom Discussion. With intentional techniques and strategies, including the use of protocols, teachers can ensure that students offer their personal connections to materials while remaining cognizant of the broader topic presented. Finally, some educators caution that we reduce texts to a series of sound bites, self-help clichés and even political polemics when we emphasize how the humanities can inform one’s philosophical and moral convictions. But this valid concern usually has more to do with the selection of the text or subject itself, rather than the choice of pedagogy. By choosing literary texts or historical dilemmas that lend themselves to complex examination, educators create a culture that invites dissent and multiple perspectives. One would be naive to expect that the current drift away from the humanities will change overnight. New technological discoveries will only make Silicon Valley more attractive to students, and foundations will continue to pour money into STEM initiatives at both public and private institutions. These trends make it all the more imperative that we engage in the rigorous self-reflection that we expect of our students. The current political and social climate in our country adds a layer of urgency to this work. As unprecedented levels of polarization sweep the nation, a rich humanities education can provide students with the habits of mind and disposition required to counter the prevailing divisiveness, including the ability to listen carefully to others, the willingness to embrace new perspectives, an appreciation of pluralism and a commitment to social justice. By integrating these capacities into our curricula, we will fulfill a critical responsibility—putting the “human” back into the humanities. 24 Nobles SPRING 2017
Leaving a Trace Just Take Five BY VICKY SEELEN, ENGLISH FACULTY
For more than 20 years, my English classes have begun: “Journals, please. Five minutes. Ready. Go.” I record daily. Date. Time. Weather. Our transition. Our respite. Our time for reflection. For privacy. For working it out.
ive minutes each day in my English classes adds up. Over days. Months. Semesters. Misha Kaufman ’08, writes, “Keeping a journal allowed a space to reflect and get out of my head. It took time for me to organize my thoughts and look back and reflect on past situations. I journal daily now as a way to compile my goals, study where I am, and collect nuggets from my day. I believe that a day doesn’t exist if you don’t write about it, because, as the years go by, it will become a blur. Journaling allowed me to capture moments in time that were wonderful.” I introduce the journal by sharing some of my own and talking about the possibility of my students finding theirs in a box 10, 15, even 20 years from now. This becomes an artifact of their life of the mind. Alexis Shaak Wiggins ’95 writes, “It was one of the few assignments/activities I remember from high school. It had deep significance for me and is a lovely record of my youth. … I think it was a necessary outlet during the difficult teenage years and helped me make sense of it—love, loss, parents, frenemies and the general sense of ennui, hope and self-loathing that went with being 16.” Now a teacher in Saudi Arabia, Wiggins continues, “I have all three of them on my shelf with my favorite books. I cringe on every page. It gives me empathy for my own high school students. I was going through so many things in my life that no one knew anything about at school, and I try to keep this in mind when my students don’t reach their highest potential.” She then says, “I love the permanence of the journal.” My own journal writing began long before I came to Nobles, but it was the Swayzes’ [former faculty Joe and Joanna] journals that inspired me to pick up the glue stick, scissors and colored pens, to give to my journals color and texture as well as words. Thus I began my inclass writing as well as my separate “at home” journals. The practice. The meditation. The ritual. The leaving a trace. What we discover in our writing, what impels us to write, what needs to be said, examined, grown. This is where we go in our sacred time of quiet. For the first five minutes of every class. Still.