Monday, January 7, 2008

making a difference

it's been almost a year since my first inside-out class. i taught three inside-out classes at the oregon state penitentiary in 2007, and each has been a wonderful experience. it is transformative education at its very best, bringing together university students and inmates in a collaborative, productive, honest, and fun learning environment. i've become an ambassador for the program, promoting it enthusiastically to friends and colleagues at the last criminology meetings, and i'm excited to be a member of inside-out's newly formed national research committee.

i won't be teaching an inside-out class this quarter, but starting tomorrow i will be teaching an introduction to sociology course (in a pilot program with private funding for most of the students' tuition) for 28 inmates in the penitentiary. at least eight of them are former inside students of mine, some of whom are paying full tuition for the opportunity to continue their educations. i'm proud of them; it will be great to have them in class again.

when i returned to campus today, i found a christmas card from inside students from my first inside-out class a year ago. seven of the fifteen inside guys wrote warm messages to me and their former classmates, sharing their gratitude and lasting friendship. i'm especially touched by this since they were not allowed to continue direct contact with their outside classmates after the course ended in march. a year after our first class, they remember us and care enough to take the time and effort to send us greetings and kind thoughts. these classes are making a real difference in the lives of students on both sides of the prison's walls. and in my life, too, of course. i've spent a lot of the last year in prison, and it's been great. i'm grateful to all of the individuals who participated and were brave enough to take the journey with me.

1 comment:

Miranda said...

I agree, and to this day I still think about and talk about the amazing experience I had in the inside-out class a year ago. I know that there will be a time in my life when I will be able to use the experience and do something to bring awareness or even work with inmates. I am still working on that! If only everybody could experience the class!