Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 5, 2008

Sarah’s seminar, feedback

Filed under: seminar feedback — Joyce @ 1:08 pm

Thank you , Sarah, for your informative and moving seminar on children of war.

Previously, I had absolutely no informational background on the Rwandan Genocide, and very little on Sierra Leone. I was impressed with Sarah’s approach: allowing herself a great deal of research room by prefacing the talk with an admission of her own newness to the topic. This is a brave and thoughtful way to explore a topic WITH a class, by offering them a model for personal growth in the pursuit of global learning. Kudos.

In our discussion, Sarah mentioned that she had decided to research Rwanda after hearing about it in the news. She told us her student reactions were amazing; they were shocked- appalled- indignant that they hadn’t been told already about the 1994 program of massacre. Included in the seminar materials was a letter one of Sarah’s students had written as an assignment. The student wrote, “Could you imagine having to act like nothing happened. Even when you know the truth?” and I felt that was incredibly powerful. Here is the voice of a supposedly self-absorbed teenager (what some adults think,) showing a considerable amount of empathy for people across the globe, who continue to suffer the results of war psychologically.

During our talk I mentioned a video by the popular band Fallout Boy, and I’m including the link here if you care to watch it.

I was wrong when I mentioned that it referenced Sierra Leone, so I just want to correct myself. It is centered around child soliders in Uganda. Although Sarah’s seminar didn’t focus on Uganda, I thought this video was a perfect match for the topic at large. Also, it shows several things about our youth culture.

First, that bands that are supposedly mainstream are able to create powerful political messages with their work, and that we can’t judge a song by it’s title “I’m a lawyer, the way I’m always trying to….” Second, it offers us a hopeful view that teens CAN be educated by popular music, and that there may be other sources of pop culture available to a teacher who is willing to try to tackle a topic like this in the classroom. Perhaps it would serve as a good solid opener, and reach out to students in a new way.

Mandy gave some good insight into her experiences observing in a school where the Holocaust is the year’s lesson plan. She pointed out how many situations could be explored within the year, including Sarah’s seminar, to effectively demonstrate these lessons about humanity and responsibility.

Kari helped us to further examine the socratic seminar Sarah offered as a lesson plan, by questioning in depth its usefulness and application in a classroom.

As homework, I borrowed MAUS from Sarah and read volumes I and II in two sittings. Moments I was sobbing. Terrible moments of inner exploration on what it means to be human. Looking away is not without fault. The wall has come down. Thank you, Sarah, for offering me that little push I needed to be more informed.

I’m happy to admit that I know a little more about our world, and I’m sad to admit that I was so eager to before to shut it out. Sometimes you have to let it in. All of it. Even if it hurts.



1 Comment »

  1. Although a very somber topic, Sarah’s seminar was fantastic. Like Joyce, I am also very unfamilar with all of the genocides we discussed. Sarah’s not only provided us with tons of relevant background information, but also with great books and other tools to use when discussing each genocide.

    I am a huge believer in schools having the potential for social reform…so acknowledging and learning about children of war is particularly important to me. I truly believe that awareness about the atrocities that occur in the world are an emotional catalyst for promoting change. And I thinK Sarah reinforced this idea when she showed us some of her student’s work and responses to exploring these topics. They were appalled. They wanted to encourage change, awareness, understanding, compassion and growth, the responses any humane individual would have.

    A ver powerful quote has stuck with me since hearing it in Sarah’s seminar. It was from an NPR interview, in which some analyst or U.S. offical plainly stated that the U.S. had absolutely no “interest” in Rwanda. Therefore, they had no “interest” in sending troops or aid there. The fact that the U.S., a superpower, is not acknowledging what is happening in parts of the world that are disinteresting is not only unacceptable and terrifying, but also dangerous. These topics seem like they could serve as a wonderful lead into other politicized discussions, such as foreign policy, and how important it is to be educated and aware. I think I will contemplate thi seminar and all the issues that were raised long after I bring them into my classroom…


    Comment by mandygrl101 — April 7, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: