Many individuals have contacted Changing Lives Through Literature and inquired about starting a program in their area. One of the first steps in starting a program is understanding the key roles involved in developing and sustaining successful sessions. The following essay, taken from the CLTL website, offers insight into one of these important roles–the CLTL instructor.
The instructor in Changing Lives Through Literature brings his or her love of literature to the table and, unlike many teachers in the regular classroom, acts as a facilitator. That is, he or she facilitates the discussion, makes it happen, provokes it, sometimes structures it, and at other times allows it to flow freely. The instructors leave at the door their need to impose an agenda on the classroom or to insist upon one meaning for a text. They are ready with questions and ways to stimulate conversation. The goal is to find practices that engage students in the literature, the characters, and the themes, and to uncover questions that come from the texts. While the methods and strategies vary from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher, the emphasis is always on involving the student (see Why Reading?).
The instructor’s role includes deciding on the logistics and rules with other team members, such as how many weeks the course will meet, where best to hold the class, or how to deal with tardiness or absences (see Rules and Guidelines). Most instructors are affiliated with a college or university and arrange to have CLTL programs meet on campus. Instructors who are not affiliated with a college or university arrange to meet in libraries or other noncourt settings whenever possible. Some classes are held in community corrections centers and a few in prisons. But the important thing here is that the instructor should be involved in these decisions, if possible, because the more you, as instructor, function as part of a team, the more invested you will be in the program.
The instructor usually chooses the literature that will be read by the students. The number of sessions you plan will be crucial in determining the kind of reading material. Some groups prefer 6 meetings over 12 weeks; others meet 7 or 8 times over 14 or 16 weeks. Some meet every week for 10 or 12 sessions. In general, most groups meet every other week. If you meet frequently, you may want to assign short stories, but most groups meet weekly and use novels. The website offers a wide range of suggested instructional materials to help the instructor get started.
Choosing the books also means thinking about your goals for each class and choosing the kinds of ideas you will be focusing on during your meetings and the issues that will grab the students during their week away. Most instructors do not know the details of why their students have been assigned to the CLTL program, but knowing some of the more general characteristics of your group may help you make better reading selections.