As part of a partnership with Wesleyan University, my high school’s Humanities program exposes students to a wide variety of reading at a very rigorous level. Many of the students in my classes lack the cultural, historical, and literary background to effectively access texts at this high level of rigor. Wesleyan faculty present college level lectures on texts such as the Romantic poets and Tristram Shandy, works with which my students have little context for understanding. These same students get college credit for this course as part of the Early College Experience through the University of Connecticut. I designed my Fund for Teachers fellowship to broaden my understanding of the texts for the course and develop materials and knowledge to share with my students next year and in the years to come.
After delaying my fellowship for two years due to COVID, this summer I will use the cosmopolitan city of Liverpool as a home base for exploring and researching the Romantic poets, Lawrence Sterne, and Jane Austen to deepen personal competency and develop students’ understanding of the literature and themes associated with this Humanities course
Throughout my time in northern England, I will visit and research sites and attractions related to the core readings of the Humanities course:
- the British Music Experience
- the International Slavery Museum
- the Wordsworth House
- Dove Cottage
- Rydal Mount
- Shandy Hall, and
- the National Coal Mining Museum.
My research will focus on the key concepts and themes uniting these works to each other and also to the experiences and knowledge of my students. The major themes to explore include: the relationship of popular music and literature to movements for social justice; the relationship between the slave trade and industrialization to the development of British literature; and the cultural connections between the development of the British identity and the simultaneous development of a unified American identity.
All of these locations will provide me with rich and detailed background information on the writers and texts covered in the Humanities course, and, in addition, will provide my students with access to these resources through the photos, blog, and materials I will bring back home to share with them. By deepening and broadening my understanding of the connections among these works and our own times, I will be better equipped to deepen and broaden my students’ understanding of how these writers and works continue to be relevant today.
Christopher Darby has taught English and English Language Learning at Middletown High School for over twenty years and currently teaches Advanced Placement Language and Honors Humanities, the latter in conjunction with the Wesleyan University High School Humanities program. Darby has also served as a Vice President for Political Action with the Middletown Federation of Teachers and a member of the Portland, Connecticut Board of Education.