Schooling for Humanity,
When Big Brother Isn't Watching
 by David Solmitz

I am teaching again at Thomas College. I thoroughly enjoy my classes. For the first time, from the second day each one of my composition students is reading his/her writing to the class. This course called Personal Exploration, allows them to explore themselves, their heritage, feelings, fears, hopes, insights.... Besides the fact that the chemistry among us is ideal, I do several things that I believe makes this class work:

- almost daily 10 minute writes in which they write freely on a topic I have suggested, often dealing with the reading. However, they may always choose their own subject. Of course, I write as well.

- they share their writing in groups of three

- they then share their pieces with the class as a whole. I share my piece as well. I am very open in my writing.

- both they and I comment on each others writing - what we liked, what worked well. The comments must be positive.

Longer essays can be developed from these short writes. Some continue the longer ones for the next major essay. Although they are supposed to write only essays, some prefer fiction, which is fine with me. we simply get to their lives through another route.

- they do work in small groups to critique, again positively, the rough drafts of their developing essays. I do have some suggestions regarding grammar, i.e. use "who" not "that" when referring to a person. they help each other on organization, on further developing a scene so it becomes more descriptive...

We have guest speakers, writers or film makers, whom I know relate well with these kids.

Because a trusting relationship evolves, we all manage to do our best work. of course, I do not grade their work. I write comments. They will throughout the semester evaluate their own work, just as I do. Then we negotiate a grade.


The sociology course I teach is equally powerful. It is more difficult because I have 30 students. It takes a long time to build trust among all of us. I do not lecture; I am a facilitator. Small group work is the focus.


An evening course with five adults called "Experiencing Diversity" is a joy. We meet with people from all over the world: so far Moldova, Singapore, Bosnia-Herzegovina. As two are managers in the work force, we are focusing as to how we can accept people from different cultures, languages, nationalities into the workforce with ease and appreciate them. The conversations are lively, inquisitive, and encouraging.

Back to Exceptional Teachers page