“I think some writers wanted us to be involved in the process of making meaning with their books and there were others who didn’t see us as participants.”
The remark comes from one of several high school English teachers gathered at the University of Houston’s Honors College. There is discussion at this place, but no lectures. There is reading, but no lesson plans. Middle and high school English teachers from around Houston convene each summer for the Common Ground Teacher Institute, an Honors College program to reinvigorate and refresh through literature.
“This is like a summer camp for English teachers,” said Dean William Monroe. “They need an opportunity to step back from the day-to-day grind from being in the trenches, from dealing with all the paper work and bureaucracy and anxiety of their profession, to think about what brought them to the profession in the first place—and that was a love of books, a love of poems, a love of plays. And that’s what we give them.”
Since 1989, Common Ground has provided a literary space—in seminar fashion and with a retreat feel—for English teachers to read and discuss the classics and contemporary minority writers. Facilitated by UH scholars, the program also brings in writers and poets for readings.
“Teachers draw together. They bring together their interest and expertise. They develop their minds and their ideas about teaching,” Monroe said.
Underwriting by the McGovern Foundation allows the Honors College to offer the Common Ground Teachers Institute free of charge.
“It’s really a kind of a celebration of diversity. It’s an example of the old E Pluribus Unum model—from many, one—and that’s really what we do here for a couple of weeks in the summer,” he said.
Common Ground Teacher Institute is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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