Q and A with ‘Global Voices’ students

The Senior English class engages students in a comparative study of literature



Students answer questions about Global Voices, an English class open to Seniors

Q: What is the focus of the Global Voices class?

A (K.B.): The focus of Global Voices is to serve as an opportunity for New Trier students to broaden their global perspective. We read a lot of non-Western literature to expand our understanding of the world. 

A (S.Z.): The global voices class focuses on non-western media—literature, movies, photography—and analyzing topics such as colonialism, post-colonialism or Orientalism. The goal is to re-educate our thinking to look at the world from a non-western lens. 

Q: What does a normal class in Global Voices look like?

A (A.R.): Typically, we will either have a large discussion about the text that we read the previous night or we will do a media analysis so we will look at photos, primary sources, and articles, journal entries.  Sometimes we will do close readings to analyze the chapters we have read. We will do a lot of historical background. My favorite classes are when we have personal conversations about our experiences with western focused literature. I really like hearing about my classmates’ first interactions with literature that isn’t from the west or from europe because I often find that I have very similar experiences. 

A (M.S.): It tends to vary based on the depth of the content we examine in class or as homework, but typically we either have a discussion dissecting main ideas and themes within the books or articles we’ve read or we closely analyze specific events in groups. By the end of the class period, normally, we’ve been able to draw a conclusion about the flawed American perspective on other global issues. There’s a lot of humor in our conversations when appropriate and the class is very open with each other, but there are also many instances where we’re very serious about a certain topic and spend time reflecting on it as a class or individually.

Q: What was one of your favorite units?

A (J.D.): One of my favorite units was on a book called The God of Small Things. This book, based in the heart of India, introduced a perspective in the world that I had never experienced. The assignment that made this unit so enjoyable, though, was a sketch of a river that was found in the novel, one that the book revolved around. A river motif was present throughout the book, and it was really cool to be able to illustrate everything that had been talked about during the unit. 

A (K.B.): I really enjoyed learning about empires and colonialism, and then following that unit by studying postcolonial trauma. When we read a book, we usually also watch a movie reacting to, or with similar themes as the novel. We then do film-text comparisons as a mode of furthering our understanding of central themes and motifs. 

A (S.Z.):  My favorite unit focused around the book Heart of Darkness. At the beginning of the unit we watched a documentary called African Apocalypse. Afterwards we read the book with discussions, guided journal entries, and group projects on current and historical events. At the end of the unit we wrote an essay about parallels between the documentary and book. This essay was fascinating because we learned so much more through the deep analysis of both pieces of media. The movie was perfectly selected because it contoured and highlighted the racist notions in the book. 

Q: What is your favorite thing about the class?

A (A.R.):  I like how we are reading a huge variety of authors that are from different nations and who have had very varying life experiences. Growing up at New Trier, that is something that I really need –to be shown other perspectives and other worldviews– that it’s really crucial. You will learn so much more from 1 foreign author than you will from reading 10 books from white male authors. You learn so much more about worldview and I think that that is invaluable.

A (M.S.): My favorite thing about the class is that the environment we’ve created is very safe and stress-free. While participation is encouraged, Mrs. Subhani respects each of our personal learning preferences and is very understanding of individual circumstances. Our classroom community is very inclusive yet challenging at the same time. Since joining this class, I’ve also noticed myself becoming more reluctant about accepting an idea pushed by the majority whether in social situations, politics, etc. In some ways, the structure of this class has expanded my sympathy toward other people’s situations since, before, I hadn’t been as informed about how much can change when hearing about something from a perspective other than my own and people similar to me.

Q: Why would you recommend this class to rising seniors?

A (K.B.): Global Voices is a thought provoking class that approaches literature through a different lens than how we have been studying English for the past three years of high school. The class has broadened my world view and taught me to think critically, and not just from my own perspective. I recommend this class to students who are interested in challenging prejudice and learning how to be a contributing member to our society. I think this class is a great way for seniors to build off of their prior English classes in a unique way.

A (J.D.): This class has changed my view on life in different countries, and helped breakdown stereotypes. By getting a glimpse into everyday lives, I got a sense of the unfair circumstances, like government corruption or colonization, that have held countries back. Anybody who is looking to step outside of their Western ‘bubble,’ would love this class. 

A (A.R.): I would definitely recommend this class to people who are active in social issues. I think that there is a huge focus on politics and human rights, which is something that I am very oriented towards. I would recommend this class to a junior who wants to hear more perspectives from around the globe and wants to hear more female voices and voices from all walks of life. It has really made me look down upon the typical English class at New Trier because it made me realize the scope of things that I could be learning with the different types of text, authors, and topics that I could be learning about and how important that is for students and people my age to learn.

A (M.S.): I would recommend this class to rising seniors because it doesn’t apply the same amount of pressure to students as an AP English course would in terms of structure of class activities and homework. Instead, most of our assignments involve out-of-the-box creative thinking and shifting our beliefs to understand the situations of others. Through our writing assignments, I’ve gained important analytical skills that I believe would help me in college on top of key discussion skills that have allowed me to be more open to participation. As we work to become a more accepting society, a class like Global Voices works as a facilitator to start the tough conversations and expand the openness of others’ minds.

A (S.Z.): I would recommend this class to students who want to challenge their preconceptions. You’ll go into this class thinking you’re “open” and realize how many stereotypes you have, or how many things you thought were good are actually wrong. This isn’t the most work heavy class but it changes the way you think more than any other class. It also blends social studies, philosophy and English into one.