Thoughts on our Class
It’s harder than I thought to consider a paper on the nuts and bolts of our semester’s Living Jerusalem class, since I really enjoyed it. So I’ll try to consider the different pieces of it that worked for me and those that weren’t so smooth.
First, I enjoyed the Karen Armstrong book. I know it seemed a lot to read, as it seemed we had to read all at once. And it got to be hard reading. Maybe it could be broke up just a little more than it was, or even intermingled with other readings in between. I feel like the information was critical to a basic understanding of Jerusalem, hence a bit of an understanding of what our class is talking about. And, although I don’t know, probably any other book with that much information in it would be an actual history book, which would not be near as much fun to read. So I am in favor of considering Karen Armstrong’s book an important book for this class to read in the future. I wonder if writing a brief summation of bits of it would help drive some of the information home, not a tremendous paper or anything, but maybe an outline type paper, or summation of what we think happened.
The other readings were OK, I think. Some of it was definitely more interesting than others, but, overall it was good, in that it really related to what we were talking about. Obviously, it was relevant also to the speakers we heard. I think we had a broad spectrum of speakers, and appreciated them all. I would like to have seen more of a mixture of Israeli then Palestinian speakers, rotated rather uniformly throughout the course. I know, as fate would have it, it seemed heavily leaning toward Palestinian speakers and I also know that wasn’t supposed to be the case, so I am not really concerned about it. But I think it is important to evenly portray an unbiased approach to speaker selection by rotating the speakers evenly according to the topic they are speaking of and the “side” they reflect. This is important because, among other reasons, we could (and did) easily have students who leaned heavily to one “side” or the other; this is a way for our class to maintain an even keel within. Speaking of the selection of speakers, I was pleased with the diversity of topics on which they all spoke. I think it was uplifting, for the most part, as well as enlightening as to the depth of complexity within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I would like to have seen more speakers about the wall situation. I think that was a very interesting and important subject. I don’t know how, but it would be awesome to hear more from several peoples of each side of the wall. I also think maybe just a couple of days of speakers, then a class to discuss what we really heard, saw, etc. Then start again with a couple of speakers, then discussion for a class. I think this would be more beneficial, capturing more of the opinions, thoughts, and conflicts within our classroom before they became back-burned due to new information of new speakers.
I know we all came from our own diverse background, with some of us willing and easily able to speak up with our thoughts, while others held back for reasons only they may know. I wonder if there might be ways to make speaking up an easier ordeal for those who don’t. For example, after a discussion class, maybe once in a while we could be assigned a short paper on our own personal response. This response could be shared then in class, where it might be easier to read your own statement rather than speak out loud from scratch about it. Then this response could be posted on our blog.
And that brings me to the blog. The blog…it was a really good idea, I think…it became a silent slate where we could write our opinions or feelings on, yet sometimes the responses seemed forced. For example, personally, some of the papers we read were difficult for me to read and even more difficult for me to form an opinion on, very deep reading and worded such that it was hard to follow. I know, big deal, this is college, suck it up and do it! But, our class structure was so awesomely laid back; it seemed conducive for creativity. Yet it was hard to be creative when nothing hit a note within. I wonder if it would be possible to require a set amount of responses, such that every single reading did not require a written response, yet maintaining a specific number of responses required every few weeks. I know there are some readings that I loved and couldn’t wait to respond to. I sensed this variation of personal involvement and testimony within other blogs and wonder if some of the other students struggled with this. I saw where this thread of creativity was carried from beginning to end of our Living Jerusalem class, though. And that was the awesome part of our course.
From the first, the class flowed in a laid back, casual manner. It took a few classes to actually acclimate to it, to realize that it was uniquely different from my other classes and unlike any I’d ever had. This laid-back manner I think lent to the overall creativity within it, feeling free to let down your guard and be yourself, without worry of being wrong or inadequate. I liked this aspect. Now granted, it could be somewhat hectic, trying to keep track of which paper was due when and what postings were due online. I guess this wasn’t overwhelming to me, as an older person and a mom, I am used to juggling changes and spontaneity in life: that IS life! But it did keep me on my toes, and once in a while, on the wrong side of the ever-changing schedule! But I still think this was a good way to work with our free-flowing class…it makes sense. And I really enjoyed seeing the many people in our class come out of their proverbial shells over the weeks of our course. I think our discussions lent to the ability of others to speak out, though they were out of their comfort zone. And this brings me to the question of the size of our class this semester.
I know that smaller classes have time for more things, and may get more from discussions as far as involvement goes. And I know this was the first time this course has had such a large amount of students. But I really think our class size did not hurt us at all. Granted, there was maybe less time to balance speaking due to the quantity of students, but I think it created an even wider base of knowledge from which to glean new information, new insight, and, especially, offered more diversity within our numbers to challenge the very issues we discussed so much and put so much importance on: tolerance and acceptance. Our wide range of interests and beliefs amongst so many students allowed a really interesting spectrum of opinions to be considered, and even challenged. And challenged some of them were. But the size of our class added to the learning aspect of our class, for me, and emphasized more realistically the diversity and complexity of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict: There are no easy answers and it is definitely more complicated than it seems!
I also really enjoyed the idea of OSU joining us. I wish the technological aspect would be much improved, but also, that’s life. I would like to see student from Jerusalem join our class also, several to many times throughout our course. And I would also like to hear more from them. It would even be interesting the first time we all met, to have a brief introduction from each student. I think it would help create a bonding and sense of involvement, kind of like the music and sports joint teams in Jerusalem and Israel did. And I think it would be fun to hear some of the daily things going on in the city, from the students there…just a few minutes and a few words of daily life…something positive, or negative I suppose, just things that are front and center right then for them, as a group or individually.
I think the final project idea was fantastic, and, true to our free-flowing course, our final projects flowed as easily and fluidly. They were a good representation of our class and were great to hear. I think it would be much better to actually schedule them a week or two earlier, so that we all could meet together as one, just to review the presentations. I know we kind of tried to do this, but it would be great to have an entire class time to do this.
And, I must add, the beautiful Turkish breakfast at the end of our course was a memory maker. I will never forget the awesome food and the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere of our class and breakfast, listening to you all chatter and laugh. It was awesome after some very deep conversation and realization about Jerusalem and her conflict, a reprieve after some intense realization, for sure.
But there is one area of the course that I am not sure about: the class being taught by someone other than Dr. H. I see where a huge part of our Living Jerusalem class is the energy and enthusiasm she brings to it, and that could be a tremendous problem for IU’s next Living Jerusalem course. I know what ever school gets her will be most fortunate.