Workshop formatted class aids learning

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

With Creative Writing classes canceled this fall semester due to lack of enrollment, Contra Costa College English professors Jeffrey Michels and Ben Jahn are teaming up to offer two new courses for the spring semester.

The revamped English 293H (Creative Writing) course, which previously met on Tuesdays, will now be offered in hybrid form every three weeks on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:40 to 6 p.m.

In conjunction with Creative Writing, English 200A: Topics in Literature will also be offered to students every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m.

Each class offers transferable units in English and will meet back-to-back with Michels and Jahn co-teaching the courses.

Although each course can stand alone, both complement each other and give students a unique opportunity to study techniques in literature that can then be applied in the creative writing course.

“All skills learned through poetry and creative writing are highly transferable in every profession,” Michels said. “It teaches empathy and self-expression which are pathways to wisdom.”

Topics in literature will focus on an eclectic list of poetry crafted to suit the diverse student body of CCC.

Michels, who will be teaching the course, said the material covered is not just for people who enjoy poetry but for those who are beginners.

“We will talk about how blues is structured, the musical Hamilton, Bob Dylan, Saul Williams. It’s a diverse reading list,” Michels said. “Our job is to inspire — to teach the importance of culture and identity.”

The Creative Writing course will follow the same structure as the previous sessions with Jahn at the helm.

Students will focus on writing poetry and fiction while sharing their work with the class in an attempt to ignite discussion on how writing can affect one another.

“The essence of the class is workshop formatted that will help students discover who they are as a writer,” Jahn said. “You can take risks to find out how talented you are, while exploring different genres and expanding your repertoire, creative voice and vision.”

An emphasis is placed more on the creative flow as opposed to following strict directions on what to write, Jahn said. “It’s fun to see what’s in other people’s mind — there’s a natural human response that occurs.

“How diverse the experiences of people are and how people have dealt with things creates a connection,” Jahn said. “I don’t think I’ve taught a creative writing course where people didn’t connect with each other and that’s what we lack in society — honesty and unity.”

The idea to “team teach” was something that Michels and Jahn thought about, but it wasn’t until the Creative Writing class was canceled that the idea was put into motion.

Jahn said he had the idea to make the Creative Writing course a hybrid, which he will do solo.

“We are designing it together where the first half will be poetry and the second half will be creative writing,” He said. “It’s about blending the two together and since this is our first time working with each other we are balancing out the structure.”

Michels said the hope behind the collaboration is to combine the strengths of both instructors and utilize them to create a set of classes that attract students.

“Ben (Jahn) is an exceptional teacher and an award-winning writer,” Michels said. “We want to make it feel like a workshop, a safe place where you don’t have to defend yourself or your writings.” English major Angela McMahon, who will be the teacher’s assistant for both courses, has also taken classes with both Michels and Jahn.

“They (Jahn and Michels) help you think about new things and expand your thoughts,” she said. “What I saw before taking their classes and then after, was such a change in my writing.”

The dual courses and team teaching aspect will bring a different perspective to students, McMahon said. It’s a much-needed face lift and great way to attract students.

“You can really put your personality into it and find a unique voice,” McMahon said. “Poetry is something we hear every day. When more students become aware of it they can incorporate it into their life.”