Teaching Sisterhood and Feminism

Since Sojourner House quickly fills the time slots for its elective HHILS courses, it is best to start the process of finding co-instructors and a time slot as soon as possible (although co-instructors might not teach the class for several months).

In the beginning of the semester, begin securing co-instructors. Once co-instructors commit, contact the Sojourner House to find out the available time slots for elective courses that semester. Decide the time slot that works best with the schedules of co-instructors and confirm this time with the volunteer coordinator.

Two weeks before the first class, contact the co-instructors to find times that work in everyone’s schedules for weekly meetings. If possible, try to schedule the first weekly meeting four to five days before the day of the class and the second weekly meeting one or two days before the day of the class. Continue these weekly meetings for every class.

Finding Co-instructors

Ideally, three or four co-instructors should teach the sisterhood course. This may seem like too many co-instructors for a class with only between eight and twelve students, but it actually works quite well. The co-instructors are able to split up the topics for that week so that no one person is responsible for all of the teaching.

Additionally, although topics are split up, no co-instructor should ever feel as if (s)he is teaching alone. The other co-instructors often provide additional insight and help each other out if another co-instructor is unsure how to respond to a question or situation. The course could also work with two co-instructors, but more than four would probably be too many.

A great place to begin looking for teachers is through talking to members of the undergraduate council. Another resource is the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (SBAI). SBAI has a list of contact information for current undergraduate Women’s Studies majors, minors, and clusters.

When talking or emailing with potential co-instructors, it will be important to emphasize the following to give potential co-instructors a good picture of what is involved:

  • Co-instructors do not need to be experts, but should care about the issues
  • Actual time teaching is only one hour per week for four weeks
  • Preparation time is usually one or two hours per week
  • There are no pre-requisites to participate in teaching
  • Co-instructors work together to help each other teach

Course Materials

The following documents are examples of useful resources. These agendas were developed by the instructors in the spring of 2009. Since these agendas are examples, co-instructors should meet to evolve or adjust the agendas in whatever ways work best for them.

Download Suggested Topics and Breaking Down an Agenda: PDFDOC
Week 1 agenda: PDFDOC
Week 2 agenda: PDFDOC
Week 3 agenda: PDFDOC
Week 4 agenda: PDFDOC
Websites and booklists: PDFDOC

Before updating these agendas, the co-instructors should have a conversation about the following issues:

  • How can this course be the most beneficial to the students?
  • How do we incorporate consciousness-raising into the course?
  • What are our goals for the semester?

The following document is a list of Rochester-area resources. Instructors can refer to these agencies for help and assistance, and may choose to provide their students with this handout. Instructors have found this handout helpful in answering questions about local places of interest.

Download local resources available to residents: PDFDOC

Before developing the “consciousness-raising” model, “Sisterhood” was taught as a topics course. Although the course is no longer modeled around these topics, they are still pertinent to class discussions.

Download Topics Course Agenda: PDFDOC

Weekly Meetings

Meetings serve as a time to split up the topics, strategies ways to present these subjects, and discuss any concerns or questions a co-instructor may have about their topic. Meeting twice each week works well, but it is ultimately up to the discretion of the current co-instructors to decide how often to meet each week. An example of the breakdown for two meetings per week is as follows:

  • During the first meeting, co-instructors decide on the topics for that week and devise a basic agenda. These topics can often be tricky to present effectively and meeting again in a few days gives the co-instructors time to brainstorm different techniques.
  • During the second meeting, co-instructors review the topics and any new insights for presentation ideas. Additionally, co-instructors finalize the agenda, decide who will take which topics, and come up with a basic time schedule for how long each of the topics should take.

Two meetings are very effective because they address and iron out any problems before teaching the class. For example, if the co-instructors decide during the first meeting to incorporate a movie clip, but the co-instructor is unable to find the movie, the second meeting allows the co-instructors to revise the plan. Also, two meetings would not necessarily mean a longer time commitment since the meetings could be shorter.


The following document is an outline of situations that may be encountered during the course and proposed responses to those situations.

Download expectations: PDFDOC

Directions to Sojourner House from the University of Rochester

By car:

  • Take Wilson Boulevard towards Elmwood Avenue.
  • Make a right onto Elmwood Avenue.
  • At the second streetlight, make a right onto Genesee Street.
  • Follow Genesee Street for about half a mile and turn left onto Sawyer Street (Sawyer Street will be three streets past the intersection with a streetlight).
  • Sojourner House is located on the left and on the corner of Sawyer Street and Millbank Street. The street number for Sojourner House is 30 Millbank Street, but the entrance is located on Sawyer Street.

By foot or bike:

  • Take the footbridge (behind the academic quad) over the Genesee River.
  • After the bridge, take a left onto Plymouth Avenue.
  • At the streetlight, take a right onto Genesee Street.
  • Turn left at the third street (Sawyer Street).
  • Sojourner House is located one block down on the left, and the corner of Sawyer Street and Millbank Street. The entrance is located on Sawyer Street.