An American Experience Class Is The First Of Many

Heavenlee Walker, Editor In Chief

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A wall, locked doors and windows shielded with blinds separate this group from the rest of the school. People walk by and peer between the blinds, curious to what’s going on inside. But to preserve the sanctity of the discussions, very few are allowed in.

 

Behind this wall is a class called An American Experience, which is new to the district. Within this room is a new original curriculum being taught with unique rules and expectations that promote comfort and authenticity. The class was created and taught by Jacquetta Thayer. 

 

“[An American Experience] is essentially a course that looks at different ethnic groups and how they have been living in and experiencing America,” Thayer said. “I think the number one thing I would like the class to do is provide students an outlet to share their feelings about issues that are happening right now. I know that not a lot of courses are offering that opportunity.”

 

Thayer was chosen to assist in creating the class in October of last year because of her extensive research on ethnic studies in graduate school. Leander Independent School District must approve the idea of a class before schools and school districts can start creating the curriculum. 

 

“We started curriculum writing in June,” Thayer said. “I think one of the difficulties I had is trying to take all of my knowledge of all things I’ve worked through for seven years in college and graduate school and then turn that into something that is digestible and resonates with the students.”

 

As the first teacher of the course, Thayer has had a lot of creative freedom in designing the structure of the class. An unofficial rule within the class is students communicating their comfort levels with visitors.

 

“I think it’s really powerful to have a silent way of identifying comfort,” Thayer said. “ I know a lot of people come in and out of classrooms, especially this classroom, because it’s the first in the district. The class becomes the house, and the conversation you have in there would be different than you would have anywhere else. It’s a place of comfort.”

 

The class is divided into three parts. The first part of the class focuses on identity and groups students identify with. The second part focuses these groups on Americans and the issues they face. The third part is about how to make change happen with those issues. 

 

“It’s just looking at who you are as a person within the confines of America,” Thayer said. “I love talking about race. I think I feel like people are fearful of saying words and things because were so conditioned to believe certain words are bad. I think taboo words are words that you should identify as correctly as you can and not be afraid to say how you feel.”