Written by Samantha Tye (A13), co-teacher of the Perspectives seminar ‘Films of Genocide.’
I can only imagine the thoughts going through my students’ heads the first time that we met as a group. Sofi Shield and I started out full speed ahead asking for names and dorms and hometowns. We wanted to hear about summer adventures while we simultaneously spewed out advice. I knew we were talking a mile a minute, but our excitement to meet our freshmen was too strong to contain. After about ten minutes of our premature advice-giving, one brave student raised her hand and asked, “Wait, isn’t this a class about genocide?”
I guess it wasn’t clear to our freshmen that during orientation week we would act as their advisors; help them get acclimated to campus and registered for their first semester. The stark contrast between new school year excitement and the somber topic of genocide added to the hilarity of the moment. Sofi and I burst out in laughter, realizing how absurd we must have seemed. The class was sitting patiently, ready to delve into crimes against humanity, and there we were, blabbing about our favorite professors. We quickly explained the misunderstanding, and our students joined in with laughter of their own. Needless to say, this broke the ice and set a wonderful tone for the remainder of our semester together.
It is hard to say what my favorite part of each week’s class was. Even as the semester went on, our freshmen never ceased to amaze us with their insight and perspective on the films we watched. They expressed wonderful commentary about portraying genocide through film and thoughtfully spoke about ethical dilemmas within the genre. I truly believe that I learned as much as the students did about genocide films. Sofi and I learned even more about being leaders, working with others and conducting a class.
On a simpler but equally enjoyable note, our weekly check-in at the beginning of each class was refreshing and allowed for continual relationship-building. I think all of us—teachers and students alike—really appreciated the twenty minutes we took to shares highs and lows of the previous week. We got to congratulate successes and suggest solutions for troubles. Our classroom environment was unlike that of any “traditional” Tufts classroom experience. Sofi and I were much more our students’ equals rather than their superiors.
Sometimes, when Sofi and I would be drawing up lesson plans, we would refer to our students as the “little ones.” We would quickly correct ourselves, however, because it didn’t feel right to establish that much distance from our students. Far before the end of the semester, we realized the “little ones” were first and foremost our friends and peers.