At the beginning of the semester, I seriously considered dropping English 409. I found out it wasn’t like any ordinary English class I’d previously taken; this one would force me to take part in something bigger than myself. It wasn’t something I could just shuffle through, writing along the way, reading the material, and making the grade. For all my doubts in the beginning though, I’m really glad I stuck with it.
What scared me the most was the idea of meeting with a partner on five separate occasions, compiling meeting reports, and eventually writing something about that partner’s life for the rest of the world to read. In addition, I learned that my partner would have a disability. That knowledge left me feeling even more nervous than before: what if I accidentally said something offensive? Were there protocols I would need to know in order to work with this person? I had no idea what to expect.
Meeting my partner for the first time did a lot to put me at ease. Her disability was a mental one. She got confused sometimes, repeated herself a lot, and liked to talk, which ended up being a good thing. I met with her a total of six times and learned a lot about people like her by just being around her. She talked about her family and her friends, about her favorite television shows and books.
The goal of the class is to help give voice (in written form) to those who aren’t usually heard. For some of us in the class, this meant being partnered with kids from a local after-school tutoring center. For the rest of us, it meant pairing up with six women residing in a home in Muncie where they can live in their own social environment away from the normal pressures of the world.
I won’t presume to speak for those who were partnered with the kids at the tutoring center and their experiences. What I do know about my experience is that taking this class was rewarding in more ways than one. Not only does it teach writers to work collaboratively, but it helps the community form bonds that would normally be unattainable. This class accomplished its goal: people’s stories were told, and that’s all anyone really wants out of life—to know that they are heard.