When: August 14-18, 2017
Where: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Institution: YouthBuild Charter School of California
Facilitators: Vialla Hartfield-Méndez, and Jais Brohinsky
Pre-Texts went to California in August 2017, invited by Arts Bridging the Gap and YouthBuild Charter School of California (YCSC). For five days, Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Jais Brohinsky facilitated a workshop with 25 committed and passionate teachers who work at the 19 YCSC sites around California. YouthBuild Charter School is a free project-based charter school, rooted in social justice, for students between 16-24 years of age who have previously left or been pushed out of traditional public schools.
For three hours each day, teachers became learners playing and transforming two pages of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. They read aloud, posed questions to the text and created answers considering each other’s reflections, developed their own Pre-Texts activities, and collaborated on creatively constructing a deeper understanding of the text and ways to fold this pedagogy into their own. By the end of the week, the group proposed new texts to use to try out this approach and spent the last day exploring “A Decent Home,” suggested by a social studies teacher. This 1944 pamphlet, published by the Los Angeles Housing Authority, advances ideas about “bad housing,” “good housing,” “blighted areas,” and “social disease.” The teachers jumped into a Pre-Texts approach to teaching about the history of housing in Los Angeles, and very quickly figured out engaging and playful ways to invite students into analysis and critical interpretation of this pamphlet while encouraging civic participation.
By the end of the workshop, many of the teachers had very concrete ideas about how they planned to use Pre-Texts. In addition, the YouthBuild Charter School administrators plan to work with Arts Bridging the Gap on a three-month school-wide pilot check-in structure and an evaluation of the effects of the Pre-Texts approach on student performance, based on pre- and post-trimester surveys and teacher observations.