Story: What are your experiences teaching & learning in the time of coronavirus?
We could just be kind.
We could be kind to our students. We know that supposedly "objective" assessments of students' writing is never actually objective (Inoue). We know that "standards" and "rigor" are (almost always) rooted in racism, colonialism, and ableism (Young; Baker-Bell; Ruiz). And we know that the complex rhetorical work that students do in their home communities, the rhetorical, compositional, and literate skills our students come into our classrooms with, have as much or more meaning-making potential than so much of what shows up in writing classrooms (Banks; Ladson-Billings; Paris). So...instead of pursuing "rigor" as our lodestar, instead of working desperately to maintain some sense of normalcy, we could just be kind. We could acknowledge that what our students are facing is daunting. We could acknowledge how the current crisis has magnified existing inequities on our campus, in our communities, across our country, and throughout our world. We could make the goal of our classes to support students however we can and to encourage them to make things (if they make things at all) that are meaningful to them in this moment. We could choose to give grades (if we still must give grades) that reflect our new reality. We can could just be kind.
We could be kind to our colleagues. We could recognize that some of us are using work to cope with this unprecedented crisis. And recognize that some of us can't cope with work at all. We could value our colleagues for their humanity as opposed to their productivity. And acknowledge the amazing work some can do in this terrifying moment. We can acknowledge (for those of us in secure positions) the absolute privilege we enjoy and the absolute terror of precarity for so many of our colleagues and friends. And we could acknowledge here, too, how the pandemic has magnified persistent inequities facing contingent faculty, disabled faculty, faculty of color. We could use this chance to amplify their voices and talk to our deans and our provosts about the worth and value of these colleagues and the absolutely vital nature of their presence and their work. This, too, is kindness. We could just be kind.
We could be kind to ourselves. We could acknowledge, even if we do it quietly, even if we do it just to ourselves, that we're all struggling. That the loss of our lives as we knew them, the loss of our work as we knew it, is a loss to be grieved. And we can grieve for our travel plans and our lost connections, for the friends and family we can't see. For the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nephews, and nieces we can't hug. We can acknowledge the loneliness or the overwhelmed-ness or the overriding anger or the crushing sadness of our current situation. We can seek comfort in food or video games or Zoom dates or crafting or writing. We can allow ourselves to feel however we feel and try (to the best of our abilities) to extend the same kindness to others. We could just be kind.
If my students, most of whom are current or future English and writing teachers, learn nothing else from me, I hope they will learn that kindness is a choice we can make. We can read generously, write thoughtfully, and teach compassionately. We could just be kind.
Keywords/Tags: kindness, empathy, pedagogy, equity
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