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When I pick up the photocopies of Brian Doyle’s short essay “Leap,” my hands shake at its leanness, the bone structure of a ballerina, a body made for flying. Usually, the class reads pieces in rounds, one paragraph at a time but because of its length and content I’ve decided read it alone, out loud. I take little breaths, sucking in the air, trying to settle the jumping choke in my throat.
“A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand.”
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“Toward a New, Broader Perspective”:
Place-Based Pedagogy and the Narrative Interview
In the context of such natural disasters, I can sometimes hardly believe we still need to “prove” that climate change—or racism or sexism or any other form of injustice—exists to resistant students. Nonetheless, we do, and as everyone who has engaged social and environmental justice issues in the classroom knows, instructors must be prepared not only to teach the text, but also to respond to students’ emotional reactions, whether those reactions take the form of anger, denial, apathy, fear, indecision, horror, or despair. We must be prepared to respond to climate denial and microaggressions, and to compassionately address misinformation and to meet students where they are. It can be a challenging task. But in my years teaching, I’ve discovered that one assignment, more than any other, has helped my students localize and engage complex environmental and social justice issues: the narrative interview. By asking students to interview another individual and draw insight from that conversation, the narrative interview helps students learn to listen empathetically and gives them a space in which to grabble with others’ lived experiences. Click here to continue reading.
Cribbing Palpatine’s Syllabus:
Or, What Professoring for the Evil Empire Taught Me About Instructional Design
Kelly K. Ferguson
It was August 2020 and my university (like many) decided to move all face-to-face courses completely online.
Assistance came in the form of online instructional design training. An onslaught of videos delivered a crash course in online pedagogy (Have you tried experiential learning? Active learning? Inclusivity?) and drive-by training in apps which might be great, but what if they weren’t, and then I lost all that time.
I’ll admit, I’ve always wondered why public school teachers receive all this training in pedagogy and classroom management, while it’s assumed college professors will insert some Matrix-like chip when the time comes. All I could think during the series of well-intentioned videos and PowerPoints was, “Too much, too late.” How could we possibly digest and apply all this theory in a week? I admit, I signed up for these modules hoping someone would finally tell me what buttons to push.
I took the checks to offset my furlough, but my course shell remained blank. I had ten years invested in a classroom—exercises, talks, activities, group work— that relied upon in-person instruction. I counted on face-to-face for wiggle room, improv, sheep herding, and accountability.
Now my net was gone. Click here to continue reading.
In this pandemic Fall, I was teaching a new class, a one credit creative writing workshop intended for students to generate work and practice skills, without the pressure of grades, and without having to do a lot of outside of class work. It was required for English majors, but open to all other majors. As a course, it highlighted the unusual place that creative writing holds within academia: it is both a serious discipline and provides classes that students will take just for the joy of it. In Fall 2020, we were all in need of more joy than ever. Click here to keep reading.