Waynflete School in Portland to add adult education

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PORTLAND — A local private school isn’t just for kids anymore.

Waynflete School, at 360 Spring St., will begin hosting adult education classes for the first time starting in the winter semester.

The course is modeled after a similar, upper-level English class taught to high school students last spring, and will be taught by the same teachers, Phuc Tran and Taffy Field.

The course, titled “The Language of Social Class; Language as Unifier, Language as a Divider,” will be taught in a blended format, with online discussions and materials, and five in-person evening sessions where the participants and teachers meet at Waynflete for discussions. These meetings will also be available online. The course runs from January through May.

Field said this course is an opportunity “to open the discussion about social classes, social groups, how we interact, how we bring each other together in this partisan and fractured climate we’re in now.”

Tran said the course will help teach people “to be aware of the language that they use, who their audience is, how their language impacts or effects their message.”

Part of the lesson, Field said, will be about “code-switching,” which is essentially when a speaker adopts a different way of talking to address different communities. Field said it is often used by politicians to make an audience think he or she is one of them, but can also be used to establish authority over someone or some group.

Tran said they are trying to expand the definition of code-switching, since it is often associated with race.

“So we’re talking about code-switching, but opening up avenues for understanding it both from the speaker and from the receiver’s point of view,” Tran said. He said from a receiver’s perspective, assumptions are often made based on what others say and how they say it.

Tuition for the course is $300, and enrollment is limited to 20 participants. Registration officially opened on Nov. 13, and nine people had registered as of Friday, Nov. 14.

Peter Hamblin, dean of studies at Waynflete, said the target audience for the course will be parents and alumni, but it is open to everyone in the public. 

Fields and Tran stressed that this is a pilot program, so they aren’t sure what the support will be.

Tran said they are inspired by the success that colleges like MIT, Harvard and Yale have had in putting content online in open online courses.

They said the online component is important, especially for adults, because it facilitates a community aspect, but won’t be a limiting factor . Parents who enroll can see and participate in what their kids are learning, Tran said, but won’t have to have the same face-to-face commitment students have.

“Again (it’s) the model that looking forward learning isn’t limited or constricted by traditional parameters of this time, in this place, in this building,” Tran said.

Like a typical course, there will be assigned homework. But unlike a typical course, there will be no tests and no grading. Tran called it “the purest and most distilled form of learning.”

“People are going to sign up to take the class because they want to read some books and engage in ideas and have some hopefully deep conversations about something,” he said.

“William Butler Yates said ‘Education is not filling a bucket, it’s lighting a fire,'” Tran said. “We are not filling buckets.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.