Today was the last day with my Women’s History class. Over the next two weeks students will be conducting oral interviews and using their transcripts to write a short essay that places the interview within a historical context. I was hoping to come up with a final project that would bridge the gap between historical studies of women and the women in these student’s lives. The original idea was to give the students an opportunity to spend time with their mothers or another close female member of the family. I think it is important that we learn as much as possible about our parents while we have the opportunity. My hope is that the readings in the course will fuel a lively interview and lead to even more communication between mother and daughter or whomever is interviewed.
To say that I enjoyed the experience this semester would be an understatement. I wanted to give myself a new teaching challenge and force myself to learn a new body of historical literature. The material bridged both history and gender studies, and along the way the class worked on a number of interesting individual projects. The most exciting part of the course was having the opportunity to talk with a mature and motivated group of young women. They taught me as much, if not more, than the material we read together or anything that I taught them. One class in particular stood out in which we discussed the concept of the “Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolff and its continued presence and influence in society today. Students’ level of maturity allowed the class to move easily through distant history as well as more controversial – and at times uncomfortable – issues relating to identity and sexuality. As the only male in the room I appreciate their willingness to work through some of the more uncomfortable subject matter.
The success of the course and the level of student interest made it easy to decide to offer it again next spring. I recently learned that at least three boys are already registered; this will surely add a much needed perspective to class discussions.
To my students: Thanks everyone for reminding me why I love to teach. I wish all of you the best in your future endeavors. Use the gift of a college education to reflect on the big questions and on those things that will serve to make your lives both joyful and rewarding. I was reminded this semester of the enormous role that luck plays in how we live our lives. Only a few decades ago most young women your age would be contemplating a very different future. Take advantage of this and whatever you do make sure that you continue to push those walls that work to limit opportunity.