As part of an ethnographic project, I am spending some time as an intern at an organization that helps people build their job skills. Many of the people are in a welfare-to-work program, others are refugees, and still others are simply 'community members.'
As an intern, I help lead some skills based classes (resumes and interviews), and I also sit in on a peer group. I am given almost free reign on how I structure the classes, so I'm struggling with what my role should be. Should I try to simply go by the book, or should I try to (at least incrementally) change the system? To what ends would this change occur?
Most of the readings we have encountered in this class so far focus on the women's studies classroom, or at least a classroom context in which feminist studies can be easily included. I wonder, though, to what extent these ideas can be operationalized beyond a liberal-arts classroom?
[What have those of you in more 'pragmatic' disciplines thought? ]
At the most basic level, I want to try to find a way to help these women and men feel some sort of agency in the class, instead of having it be a solely top-down process. However, I struggle implementing this for a few reasons. First, many of the people are not there on a completely voluntary basis. Rather, they are there because their counselor (vis-a-vis the state) tells them to.
Moreover, how do I shift the dynamics of knowledge production in teaching something like resume or interview skills? I try to spend a significant amount of time having each participant share their own experiences with the topics, and I encourage them to share throughout the session. What other tactics might help?
Finally, how can I feel good about helping funnel these women and men into a low paying, often oppressive job system? How can I be critical of (and help them be critical of) the very system I am working for?