My Elder College (North Island College) Class
Last fall I was honoured to teach an English class for the Elder College division of North Island College near me. The class was called “Book Club: Exploring the Genres”. The course was designed to be like a guided critical reading book club. A book club where I choose all the books and encourage class members to read in genres outside their comfort zones.
I loved doing the class, and I’m offering it again in September, although with different books. I took extreme care selecting the books to read. I needed books that were engaging page-turners and that were great examples illustrating specific things in literature. I also wanted great books that were perhaps off the beaten path that class participants probably would not have read. A class like this generally attracts folks that are well-read to begin with, so I had to be careful. I didn’t want every book to be one they had already read several times.
So what did we read? I’ll mention a few of the titles. I’m not going to link to them because this blog isn’t monetized, but they will be easy enough to find. For American Classics, we read “To Kill A Mockingbird”. A terrific book by any measure, it lends itself to discussion on plot. There are so many plots and subplots. Most class members hadn’t read it since childhood and were pleasantly surprised at the depth in the book that they encountered as an adult.
For Canadian Classic Fiction, we read Guy Vanderhaeghe’s lesser known, but prize-winning anyway, “Homesick”. This is a fascinating look at family life on the prairie, something that most Canadians can feel comfortable reading and discussing. Character development was the obvious first discussion point, but the book also lends itself to discussing character development in the novel. I’m an avid fan of Vanderhaeghe because he is related to my former boss, so we discussed his works regularly.
Mean teacher that I am, I made them read a science fiction book. For those unfamiliar with SciFi, the genre can be a tough mountain to climb. We read Asimov’s “I, Robot”. I asked some of my Scifi guru friends, and we all agreed that “I, Robot” would be a good first book for entry into the genre. It’s short, thought-provoking, an easy read, and another important point is that it’s easy to get a copy of it, in print or as an ebook.
There was one woman who was not happy with me or my class. She lost her mind when we were discussing The New Yorker, and I said that it has leaned increasingly left over the years. She gave me the stinkeye for about three classes then thankfully decided not to come back. I have a new found respect for school teachers, who probably regularly have to deal with students who would enjoy having their teachers' heads mounted on sticks.
I taught the same class both in Courtenay and in Campbell River. Elder College is a way to offer low-cost courses for those over 55. The way I got into teaching it was that I am not old enough to take the classes, but there’s no age restriction for teaching. Elder College can always use some volunteers. So definitely contact them if you’re interested.
There will be registration in August for the fall class. Want to know what we’re reading? Oh, dear, that’s a state secret, but I can assure you there will be some fascinating books.