Guttman’s interdisciplinary and experiential First Year Experience is a place of transformation not only for students but also for faculty members who teach these anchor courses. Dr. Nicola Blake, Associate Professor of English and Special Assistant to the Provost, reflects on her own transformation in her article Using Visual “Bait” to Hook, Engage, and Empower New Community College Writers in the Journal of College Literacy and Learning, Volume 44, 2018.
Dr. Blake discusses a series of brief photo-journal assignments that allowed students to bridge the boundaries between community and classroom. The article focuses on these semester-long activities that encourage students to capture images of their neighborhoods that resonate with them and to reflect on them through written personal narratives. By asking students to capture their lives–what they are seeing, photographing, and choosing to share–the assignment engages students as writers and provides a space to express thoughts about their communities and their traveled places and spaces. Many student entries are deeply moving as they tackle issues of belonging, uncertainty, and resilience.
Similarly moving, one student explored the idea of a walk sign, a simple mundane fixture on every street corner, as a symbol of encouragement and resilience. Dr. Blake indicates in the essay, that she set out to teach students how to see beyond the things in front of them, and in so doing she in turn also learned to see the stories of her students’ lives–something that has changed her and made her a more effective participant in the classroom.