Anne, how did it come about that you had class at your home?
Anne: This is a once a week night class in Todd County, KY as part of the extended campus, and the high school was going to be closed for fall break. Someone said, “Ms. Stahl, we love your class and don’t want to miss it. Is there a place in town we can meet?” One student then asked, “Can we come to your house?” so we were on.
You mentioned that you served hot dogs? How did that go?
Anne: I told them I’d make the hot dogs if they brought everything else. They got together among themselves and brought Doritos, chips, dip, brownies, two cases of Coke, plates, and cups. I put the hot dogs in a pan on the stove, and we gathered around the kitchen table. They liked doing this so much that they plan to do a repeat for our last class of the term at the school.
What were some things that made this special?
Anne: One boy brought his guitar and played and sang “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Keith Whitley and “Midnight in Montgomery” by Alan Jackson. Then I put country music on low for the rest of the evening. They liked the tray of seashells in my kitchen—a reminder of my time in Florida at the beach with one of my best friends (and officemate) Dr. Karen Dougherty. One student said, “Is that an episodic memory?” and I answered that it was.
What is an episodic memory?
Anne: It’s a flashback to an episode of your life that brings up emotions. It’s great when a learning point from the course comes up like that. Another thing that made the setting special they asked about pictures hanging on the walls, and I felt like it opened up my life to them. I would tell them about a picture, and they would say, “That’s neat!” They got to see me as a person with a life.
How did you move into class mode?
Anne: We moved into the den where a couple of the girls got onto the floor just like they would at home, and the recliners got taken, and we all sat in a circle. I began asking questions, like when someone in a circle tosses a ball to a person. Our chapter was “Psychological disorders.”
How many questions did you prepare in advance?
Anne: I had 50 questions ready, and would throw out a question, accompanied by a scenario and ask, “What disorder is this?” Someone would answer the question, and this would lead to discussion. This went on for two hours. They would occasionally comment, “This is just great” or “We didn’t know teachers did stuff like this” or “You almost feel like our mom.”
How long have you been a teacher, and had you conducted a class in your home before?
Anne: I’ve been a teacher for 25 years, and this was a first. I especially liked it that this represented part of what a community college is all about. These were ten hometown kinds where I live. I like how they felt comfortable and took bathroom breaks without asking permission, just like they would at home. There was no stress, whereas there often is in class (you can see it on their faces). For me, it was like sitting with my granddaughters’’ friends. I think it strengthened the teacher and student bonds.
What final thoughts do you have on this?
Anne: There were hugs at the end, and one student even kissed me on the cheek. I really enjoyed it, and it was productive—maybe more than some classroom settings.
Thank you for sharing this. It might even be an episodic memory for me, and I wasn’t even there!