Professor Baruch November Uses Poetry to Showcase Shared Struggles Facing Minorities
Literary works used in Touro classroom teach important and relatable lessons to underserved populations comprising the NYSCAS community
If you’ve visited a college classroom lately, then you know the majority of college students are so obsessed with their phones that it can be a challenge to get them to fully concentrate on the lesson at hand. With that in mind, Professor Baruch November of Touro’s New York School of Career and Applied Sciences (NYSCAS), who has taught poetry, composition and Shakespeare for nearly fourteen years, takes a different approach to teaching.
“It’s important to me to find ways to keep my students interested, so I usually start the semester by telling jokes, learning more about them and connecting to them on a personal level. I try to find out what they need from me in order to learn and reach their highest potential. Every day it’s a battle but I enjoy it, and turning my lectures into a conversation with students helps make them comfortable asking me questions and participating in the give and take that promotes real learning,” said Baruch.
Baruch’s teaching techniques reach beyond developing a rapport with students. He also uses poetry as a tool for inspiration. Classics such as Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which showcases the diverse choices that a person often faces in life, “Shema” by Primo Levi, a poem about a man trying to survive the Holocaust and pieces highlighting slavery written by the renowned poet Maya Angelou make their way into his classroom discussions.
“I use poetry about the Holocaust and slavery to show the common struggle between Jews and other minorities, since minorities make up most of the students who attend NYSCAS and to spotlight the challenges certain groups have faced throughout history,” said November.
“Professor November used many different poetry genres to help my classmates and I understand the shared struggles of various minorities. We explored different ethnicities and analyzed the experiences of minorities from older and younger age groups. Most importantly, we saw how different minorities, such as Jews and African Americans, experienced similar kinds of dehumanization which was evident through poetry written by members of each group and moving,” said student Damita McCain.
November isn’t solely a professor, but also a poet in his own right whose latest work titled, “Bar Mitzvah Dreams” is touted as an unusual and moving collection of surreal dream sequences containing references to pop culture figures, artists, thinkers, scholars and rabbis by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, award winning poet and Editor of the Paterson Literary Review.
Currently available on pre-order, it is not a requirement for NYSCAS students to purchase November’s book but if they do he “hopes they will be able to get to know me in a better and different way, enabling them to see who their teacher really is, and inspire them to write their own poems as well.”
According to November, Poems highlighting challenging issues many people experience help students get in touch with their own feelings and improve their writing.
“After completing Professor November’s class, I have continued to read poetry and even started to write more. He has made me love poetry,” said student Dalin Price.