This term I have the great joy of participating in Film Directors and Genres, taught by Bill Cadbury and Katy Zilverburg at Oregon State Correctional Institution. I graduated from University of Oregon in June, and during my last term there I took Bill’s Ethics and Aesthetics in Film course, which was also held at OSCI, so this is my second time around participating in Inside-Out. My first Inside-Out experience was amazing (one which requires more space for proper reflection than I have here) and although I was grateful to be given the opportunity to participate, it was also bittersweet to find such an amazing program during my last term in school. When I got an email saying that they decided that they’d like a few alumni to participate in this year’s classes, I emailed Bill right away and told him I’d do whatever I needed to do to stay involved.
During our first class we spent a lot of time meeting our classmates; we introduced the person sitting next to us to the class and then did a wagon wheel exercise, which served as an ice breaker and a good excuse to talk about our favorite music, books and why we’re taking the class. We spent the last portion of the class discussing Dirty Harry, the first film we watched for the Clint Eastwood unit we’re doing. There are 12 outside students and 13 inside students in this class; I’m the only alumni from the outside group, but nine of the inside students are guys who were in my class last year, and I was really excited to see my old classmates and friends again as well as getting to know my new classmates, both inside and out.
Each week, Bill asks us to write a one page reflection on the previous week’s class, so that we can get our thoughts in order and provide feedback, so for the past week I have been mulling over what I wanted to say about our first class. I found that my feelings are best summed up by a conversation I had via email with Katie, another experienced Inside-Out participant. I wrote “even though we’ve only had one class, I can tell that this term is going to be a good chance to continue learning and probe deeper into the things that my last experience sparked in me or brought to my attention. It’s also been fun to come back post-graduation as a repeat student; I’m glad to be writing papers again and wrestling with all of the various issues that come up in discussion but also feel like I have something more to offer this time.” I asked if her experience coming back a second time was similar, and she responded by saying “yes to everything you said about class–how familiar and different it is to be in the classroom again with a different mix of people, and the sense of giving more because of a comfort level and past reflection.”
While I recognize what a unique and special opportunity it is to come back for a second class, I don’t feel like I have to spend so much time adjusting to the novelty of being in a class inside of a prison. I feel like I have more to contribute this time around, because so many of these ideas have been stewing in my head and heart for the last several months. Beyond that, my feelings were mostly enthusiasm over getting to see my inside friends again as well as meeting all of the new people (inside and out) and a bit of anxiety about brushing up on my rusty paper-writing skills (even after six months, I’m feeling a bit out of practice!). I caught myself feeling like none of these things were profound enough to really get at the heart of it, but I’ve realized that what may seem like everyday thoughts or feelings about the experience perhaps reveal the depth to which I care about the ideas, people and experience I’m having: enough to let them become normal.
Participating in a second class is making me see with fresh eyes that that really is the magic of Inside-Out. Most of us come in not quite sure of what to expect, but finish the term changed, not because we experienced something unheard of, but because we experienced something so unexpectedly normal: genuine conversation and learning (which, on second thought, maybe isn’t so normal after all…). Inside-Out teaches us that there aren’t many things that could prevent that kind of genuine interaction if we are willing to give it an honest go and it made me realize that even though that type of interaction might be rare, it doesn’t have to be.