True Learning through Interviewing on the Streets

On May 2nd, the Foundations of Writing II class, which is taught by Jerry Hughes, went out on the streets downtown Minneapolis for their class assignment.  Jerry required each student to interview someone they did not know and try and identify if they were homeless and write a story about their life.  When this assignment was introduced in class the students were very nervous and apprehensive about talking with someone they didn’t know.  Jerry tried to ease the anxiety by having guest speaker, Jamie Yuccas from Channel 4 News, give her advice on how to conduct good interviews – her advice was simply “Be yourself!”

A student interview being conducted on Nicollet mall in Minneapolis

Of course talking with someone on the street that we don’t know is hard enough for any of us to do, let alone write a class paper for a grade.  Most people walk up and down
Nicollet Mall downtown Minneapolis and, if we admit, we will ask questions to ourselves, “Why are those people always begging?” or “When will they ever get their life in order?” or maybe we have compassion for them or just scurry by and try not to pay attention…either way, Jerry’s class needed to find out some answers and learn something about interviewing and writing.

Prior to this project, the class was learning how to write about themselves and others in the class.  Now it was time to take writing to a whole new level by hitting the streets, which they were well equipped to do because of their training in class.  Mr. Hughes believed in them and it was their time to believe in themselves.

Another student interview being conducted as part of Jerry Hughes’ class.

During the project the streets were filled with students sitting down on the streets talking to someone.  Making them feel like family.  Getting to know someone without asking typical and boring questions from a piece of paper – it was about having a heart-felt conversation.  As the hour progressed this was happening.  The class was learning what it meant to interview and write in a way they were not used to.  One of the best comments that a student told the class about her experience was a direct quote that came from the man she was interviewing.  He said to the student with tears streaming down his
face, “No one has ever interviewed me about my life.  No one has ever taken the time to talk with me about my life.  Thank you!”  When the student ended the interview he asked if she would give her a copy of her paper with an “A” on it.  Of course this student did get an
“A” and she returned to the street to give him his copy of their interview.

Once each interview was complete, Mr. Hughes had each student give Target gift cards as a token of our appreciation.  This was a class project that took learning to a new level.
It was learning with impact.  Each student received perfect scores on their papers because they went out of their comfort zones to make a difference by simply sitting down and getting to know someone they didn’t know. That is true learning!