Teaching Resource Packet 09-10

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Teaching Resource Guide for
Listening Is an Act of Love:
A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project

"Simply wonderful. It is like listening to someone’s heart.”
--a listener's comment on the StoryCorps podcast

Teachers, thank you for your interest in the 2009-2010 College-wide Book Project.
This year, we will be working with a multi-faceted book called Listening Is an Act of
Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project. Upon reading it, we think
you will agree that this book fits into the many avenues of education at Atlantic Cape
Community College. We selected it with high hopes: that both you and your students
will be able to engage in meaningful conversations about the value of each life, each
story, each experience. Maybe you'll be prompted to conduct your own set of
interviews with your students. Maybe you'll be prompted to have your students
reflect in a visual way through art or speech. Maybe you'll be prompted to encourage
research on one of the book's innumerable themes. Whatever you decide to do with
the book as you incorporate it into your course description, we are glad.

Enclosed, please find some of our suggestions for incorporating the book. At times,
we have included specific ideas; at other times, we merely provide links or references
to themes or possible projects. We hope this information is interesting and useful to

Please contact us with any feedback or questions. If you have any ideas, articles, or
teaching tips you think we could add to this document, we would be happy to hear
about them.

Stephanie Natale-Boianelli and Leila Crawford
Facilitators of the College-wide Book Project

Section Summaries

Section 1: Home and Family

1. p. 10 Mother makes barn from paper.

2. p. 13 Man helps his dad the country doctor, steals bell from school, and meets his future wife
in high school.

3. p. 18 Man learns his fiancée can’t have children, so they adopt. Later, he cares for his wife as
she dies from Alzheimer’s.

4. p. 21 Korean mother explains her loving marriage to her daughter.

5. p. 24 Indian woman explains her arranged marriage and her feelings when meeting her
American daughter-in-law.

6. p. 28 Grandmother takes in her 10 year old grandson when the state takes him away from his

7. p. 33 Woman talks to the son she gave away for adoption.

8. p. 37 Man remembers his grandmother’s stern friend who made him go to church in his

9. p. 39 Woman’s homage to her favorite aunt.

10. p. 45 Man has everyone from the ’43 Yankees sign his ball.

11. p. 48 Daughters reflect on their crowded apartment growing up, and the gratitude they wish
they had shown their mother.

Section 2: Work and Dedication

1. p. 57 Father teaches children about hard work and the value of education by making them
pick up rocks.

2. p. 60 Man talks about his and his father’s careers making steel.

3. p. 65 Man appreciates his father’s work as a school janitor.

4. p. 67 Mother works multiple jobs, including dangerous work at a shipyard, to raise four
children on her own

5. p. 70 Mother runs the post office of a small town.

6. p. 73 Man tells funny stories of his dad’s artificial leg.

7. p. 76 Woman appreciates how hard her parents worked to run a small farm during the

8. p. 79 Man explains his job as a bounty hunter.

9. p. 83 Woman joins NYPD, then quits years later, 3 months after 9/11.

10. p. 86 Bus driver helps elderly woman find the right restaurant.

11. p. 88 Man grew up working in his dad’s barbershop.

12. p. 91 Couple met in an elementary school where she taught and he was a custodian and then
a teacher.

13. p. 97 Hospital chaplain emphasizes the need to value and listen to all hospital workers.

Section 3: Journeys

1. p. 105 Plane crash survivor discusses the impact of the event on her life and her beliefs.

2. p. 110 Woman details her crossing of the US/Mexico border and discusses her education in
the US with her daughter.

3. p. 114 Recovering alcoholic tells his good Samaritan friend, who took the homeless addict
home for New Years Eve, about his history with drink.

4. p. 120 Two inmates at Oregon State Penitentiary interview each other about their lives,
crimes, and time in prison.

5. p. 126 A man tells his brother about his experiences of coming out to their family and of
being interviewed live by a Christian radio station.

6. p. 130 Sisters recall the younger sister’s battle with cutting.

7. p. 135 Man is interviewed by his wife about his relationship with his trucker father and their
marriage of “two tortured mutts.”

8. p. 139 Man tells his daughter about his father’s suicide, laughs over his daughters’
manipulation skills, details his own depression, and is reminded of his work for the
impoverished, which cost him his position in a conservative Christian mission.

9. p. 146 Woman details one significant round of chemotherapy.

10. p. 148 Father remembers his nine-year-old son’s premonition of his own death and
preparation for it.

11. p. 153 Father and daughter discuss losing both their wife/mother and son/brother to cancer in
one year.

Section 4: History & Struggle

1. p. 165 Woman recalls her schooling during the Depression and her father.

2. p. 170 Man tells of his life in East Harlem, of wine-making during Prohibition, and of his
mother’s fight to get him into an elite school.

3. p. 174 Daughter remembers her desire to ask her father questions about Auschwitz and her
feelings upon finally getting her wish at his deathbed.

4. p. 178 WWII soldier remembers the nightmare of shooting a young German soldier.

5. p. 181 A sister of a WWII soldier recalls putting off Christmas until hearing the news that her
brother was safe.

6. p. 183 An African American electronic technician in the Navy recalls discrimination that
labeled him “not a good enough citizen to come to a movie” in D.C. (185).

7. p. 186 An African American woman recalls the embarrassing struggle just to register to vote
(counting jelly beans, reciting Constitution, etc.).

8. p. 190 Sanitation workers strike and MLK preaches: the workers no longer have to work in
rain or go to backyards to get garbage.

9. p. 194 A Vietnam vet recalls the long healing process after returning from the war—a bike
trip and a cleansing floor buff.

10. p. 196 A woman remembers her homosexual brother’s struggle with AIDS and how, even at
his death, people treated him like an alien because of the disease: “they all donned those suits—
like in E.T.” (199).

Section 5: Fire & Water

1. p. 207 A couple brought together at a car race in PA is broken apart by the woman’s death on
9/11. Her fiancée recalls her eyes, her smile, her companionship.

2. p. 216 A 9/11 survivor recalls bravery embodied by the service workers who climbed up the
second Twin Tower to rescue victims, knowing the slim likelihood of their own survival.

3. p. 228 Two pump station workers remember the four days they spent “trying to get at least
one or two pumps to start pumping…still trying to do our job” (230).

4. p. 233 A man who lost his wife and daughter in Katrina tells of his horror and how he
manages after losing his family.

5. p. 239 A hospital nurse and her fiancée tell of Snickers and peanut butter—how all the
hospitals’ patients survived due to the dedication of many.

Section 6: The Story of StoryCorps

Discussion Questions

Examining the Text:

      Which interview captures the "Celebration of American Life" aspect of this book's title
      After reading the introduction, do you agree that we live in an "ever more disposable
       society" and that it is important "to connect despite endless temptations to detach and
       disengage" (4)? If so, why? What is disposable about society? What are some of those
      How has American culture come to honor its celebrities more than its average folk? Is
       this a Western way, or is this a phenomenon seen worldwide?
      Is there a risk involved in interviewing someone you care deeply for or being interviewed
       by someone who cares deeply for you? If so, do you see this risk demonstrated in any of
       the interviews?
      Is it possible to remain an opaque person and still give an interesting and insightful
       interview about oneself?
      Which did you find more compelling in this collection, the "everyday" stories or the
       grander, historically-relevant stories? Why? Which section would you most like to see
       expanded (or what type of interviews would you most likely seek out through the website
       archives)? Why?
      Do the stories in the Home and Family section reinforce or challenge standard ideas of
       these abstract terms? How and where?
      In the opening to the Work and Dedication section, Isay identifies one lesson facilitators
       of these interviews learn as "Never assume from how people look that you understand
       who they are." Did any of the interviews in this section reveal new truths for you?
      The Journeys section of the text is a compilation of interviews from the Story Corps
       mobile booths. Does the title also inform the stories gathered in this section? Does a
       theme emerge from them?
      The Fire and Water section is described as "stories from two of the most significant
       moments in twenty-first-century American history." What do you think of the
       selections? Do you think they are appropriate representations of these moments?

       How about the History and Struggle section? Are the selections there appropriate and

Responding to the Text:

       Which interview encouraged some epiphany or change in game plan in you?
       In "The Story of StoryCorps" chapter (249), Isay tells of a lost recording he still wishes
        he could find. Do you have an item from your past or your family's past that is as
        important to you as this tape is to Isay? What if that item were lost? Is it possible to
        remember fully with just our memories, or do tangibles play an essential role in memory?
       Is radio an important part of your life? How did it shape your childhood? Is auditory
        stimulation (like radio) still as powerful as it once was, or has visual stimulation taken
        precedence in modern life?
       If we aren't lucky enough to have our stories and our loved ones stories recorded and
        remembered through a formal interview with the StoryCorps project, is there a way to
        engage in such meaningful "interview" conversation?
       How can we spend "a little less time listening to the racket of divisive radio and TV talk
        shows and a little more time listening to each other" so that we can "be a better, more
        thoughtful, and more compassionate nation"? How else, besides reading this book, can
        we "succeed in creating change in our culture,...redirecting our energy toward careful
        listening, honoring our elders, and embracing our neighbors"(269)? Try to be as concrete
        as possible in your suggestions.
       Are there any tips on being a good friend that you received by reading this book?
       Whom would you like to interview after reading this book? (This does not have to be
        someone you know personally. Have you always been interested in hearing an
        undocumented worker's story, for example?) What sort of questions might you ask
       Whom would you select to interview you? Who knows you well enough to ask the right
        questions in the right order and to listen well?

Teaching the Text:

       Which of the interviews should be required reading for college students, and why? How
        would you integrate those interviews into your classroom?

Teaching Tips
Please use the following list to help you incorporate Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of
American Life from the StoryCorps Project into your classroom:

       Check out the teacher's guide from the StoryCorps website. It is a vast, 12-page
        document that includes the basics on the project, general interview questions, questions
        for approaching the book's interviews, and some tips for helping students conduct their

       own interviews.
      Also, take a look at this Do-It-Yourself Guide, which even includes a question generator
       to assist you or your students in crafting meaningful interviews:
      Here are two links to the audio recordings of some StoryCorps interviews. Why not
       listen to one or two during class with your students?
      There is even a list of fabulous initiatives related to the StoryCorps project that you and/or
       your students might be interested in pursuing. Some included are a memory loss initiative
       "to reach out to people affected by memory loss" and a Griot initiative, "to insure that the
       voices, experiences, and life stories of African Americans will be preserved and presented
       with dignity" ("Initiatives"). Here's the link to learn more about these

Discipline-Specific Tips

      Allied Health, Nursing, and Physical Education
           o Create a nutrition label for a recipe from the book.
           o Compare and contrast the eating habits of characters in the book with the eating
              habits of your family.
           o Write a report on the best ways to care for an illness or health issue presented in
              the book.
      Arts and Humanities
           o Craft a scene from the book in clay (or with paint, charcoals, pencils, etc. on
              canvas or paper).
           o Write an article to appear in The New York Times Book Review on the book.
           o Research a historical event discussed in the book.
      Business
           o Create a business plan that you think would find success in the setting of the
           o Computer Information Systems
           o Create a website for one of the book’s characters. What would he/she be selling?
              Add links to items he/she would like the viewers to see and/or buy.
           o Craft your own College-wide Book website for the novel. Show your visitors
              what you think is important in the book.
      Culinary Arts
           o Create a menu for a meal that occurs in the book.
           o Create a recipe for a dish mentioned in the book.
      English
           o Write a character analysis of one of the characters in the book.
           o Have the class work together to create its own Cliff Notes for the text,
              summarizing, interpreting, and providing context for readers of the book.

          o Write an essay on the most important theme in the book.
      English as a Second Language and Modern Languages
          o In whichever language is being studied:
          o Write a letter to the author explaining what the book taught you.
          o Write a summary of your favorite chapter; then, explain why this chapter stands
              out to you.
      Math and Science
          o Research two of the climates mentioned in the book and compare/contrast their
          o Read about the leading mathematicians during the book’s setting and write an
              analysis of his/her contributions to the science.
          o Find five examples of everyday physics in the book and explain the principles
              behind your examples.
      Social Science
          o Research a social problem discussed or illustrated in the text.
          o Create a lesson plan around one of the themes in the book.

Other Famous (and Not-so-famous) Interviews Available Online

      The Mike Wallace Interviews:

"In the early 1960’s, broadcast journalist Mike Wallace donated 65 recorded interviews made in
1957-58 from his show The Mike Wallace Interview to the Harry Ransom Center at the
University of Texas. The bulk of these were 16mm kinescope film recordings, some of the
earliest recordings of live television that were possible, and that survive today. Many of these
have not been seen for over 50 years, and they represent a unique window into a turbulent time
of American, and world history. From Senators to strippers, Ku Klux Klansmen to Nobel Prize
winners, Mike Wallace has interviewed them all." (From the homepage)

      Frost/Nixon Interviews:
           a. Original Interviews Website:
           b. Motion Picture Website:
      Interviews with Famous Writers at The Paris Review:
      Reporter Melissa Block's Interview with a Grieving Family after China's Earthquake in

Important Dates

Celebrations During the Fall Semester:

      October 20th, 2009: NCTE's National Day on Writing
      November 27th, 2009: StoryCorps' National Day of Listening

Project Deadlines:

      November 5th, 2009 (12 noon): Orders for student copies of the college-wide book for
       the spring 2010 semester are due. Email with your name; course
       name, number, and section for each class using the book; and maximum class enrollment
       for each class.
      November 5th, 2009 (12 noon): Recommendations for the 2010-2011 college-wide book
       are due. Email with your
       recommendations. All recommendations for the College-wide Book must meet the
       following criteria: contain less than 250 pages, be available in paperback format, be
       accessible to students at all levels (including students in developmental courses), and
       have multiple themes that are applicable to a variety of disciplines. Please include the
       title of the book, name of the author, and a few thoughts on why you believe this would
       be a good choice for the College-wide Book.
      December 2009: Faculty Feedback Questionnaire due. Email your input to (see questions below).

Faculty Feedback Questionnaire:

All faculty using the College-wide book in their courses will be asked to respond to these
questions before the end of the fall semester--please help us support and improve this initiative
by promptly providing your input!
     How did you incorporate the college book into your course? How much of the book did
        you use? How long did you spend with the book during the course?
     Which course-related goals and objectives were met by your incorporation of the college
        book? How?
     How will you determine whether or not your students have met these goals and
     Did this book ultimately enhance your course or distract from it?
     Which teaching resources did you use? Were they helpful?
     Which aspects of this year's book did you like? One or more themes? The genre of the
        text? The writing style? Something else?
     Do you have any suggestions for future books, events, or the project in general?

Directions for Obtaining Student Copies:

For your faculty and student copies of the text (please do not start this process until after
Add/Drop ends, and your class list is finalized):
    After Add/Drop ends, please send Millie Ciraolo (x5226) a copy of your revised class
       list. She is located in the library.
    When Millie receives your class list, she will send your books to your mailbox. These
       can be distributed to the students in your class.
    Please send any extra copies of the text back to Millie. We would like to get copies in the
       hands of as many students as possible, and every book counts!

For online courses:
    After Add/Drop ends, please send Millie Ciraolo (x5226) a copy of your revised class
       list. She is located in the library.
    Please confirm with your students that the addresses in the school's system are correct
       and make the students aware that they will be receiving the book in the mail (Books are
       often returned because addresses are incorrect or because students don't know why they
       received the book).
    Contact Pam Baker (x4930) to request labels of the student addresses for your classes to
       be sent to Millie.
    Once Millie receives your class list and labels, she will mail the books to your students.