It's Diablogical!
A Collaborative Diablog on Feminist Pedagogy
Taking risks
Categories: Reflections

Just starting the six week of classes (wow!) and feeling overwhelmed…and sick. I always get sick in October. Oh well. Anyway, my semester is good so far. I’m proud of the blogging and tweeting in my classes–I really need to write an entry about my diablog assignment for my queering desire students (it’s the first week students are trying it out–they already did a tweet-chat–or what I called “tweet-a-logging”–this morning). I just wrote an entry on my trouble blog about how my classes all converged last week on the issue of troublemaking and asking questions. In that entry, I mention how difficult it is to teach, write and actively participate on four different blogs.

But, none of what I just wrote was the real purpose of my entry today. I was inspired to write here because I was reading bell hook’s Teaching to Transgress when I came across the following passage:

I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share….It is often productive if professors take the first risk, linking confessional narratives to academic discussions so as to show how experience can illuminate and enhance our understanding of academic material. But most professors must practice being vulnerable in the classroom, being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit (21).

I think it is was this passage that first inspired me when I discussed practicing what I teach/preach this past summer in our diablog. In your notes from July 9th Meeting, you describe our offline/coffee-place discussion about taking risks with our students:

This moved us to another interesting conversation, the feminist pedagogical approach to only create assignments and/or ask your students to do work that you yourself would be willing to do. Both of us mentioned that this is a key piece of our feminist pedagogy and that using personal blogs or being committed to blog writing beyond the class blog demonstrates your commitment to using blogs as valuable ways to create and shape knowledge and learning. We began thinking about some feminist pedagogues that we could reference and expand upon their ideas with this piece on blogs – like Elizabeth Ellsworth’s ideas on vulnerability in the classroom, and Bernice Fisher’s No Angel in the Classroom. We want to bring some more pieces in that speaks to this idea of doing assignments with your students, or only doing work that you would be willing to do as a feminist practice, any one know of any?

Ah! I feel so lucky to be able to read and talk about hooks’ Teaching to Transgress this week! I love her idea of being wholly present in mind, body and spirit. What are some of the ways that we can do this in the classroom (offline and online)? What prevents us from doing this?

3 Comments to “Taking risks”

  1. SLP says:

    Btw: My class had a great discussion on hooks. One of my student’s “live-tweeted” the class. Check it out here.

  2. KCF says:

    SLP – Phew! A week later and I’m catching up on your post here. I can’t wait to hear about the diabloguing exercise/assignment you had your students do and how it went! I just figured out I only have 14 classes left of the semester (more to come on that in my next blog post coming shortly) so I totally understand about hitting the midpoint of the semester and feeling crazy!

    This piece about vulnerability is really pertinent to me right now – this is the first time (?) maybe, where my pedagogical technique that has always been presenting/using myself as the site from which we can explore diverse identities and intersections is potentially failing. For the first time in my life I’m really tired of being the only point of entry into these types of discussions especially when it feels like it’s happening in such a “hostile” environment – hostile in the sense that these students are shocked with my revelations of being a lesbian one day and yet they don’t really seem interested or invested in discussing their “fears” or assumptions out loud in class but instead are only able to manifest them in their written work. Did you like that giant run on sentence?! Ha! It’s also hostile in that I am the only one ever revealing anything, I have one woman of color and one international student from Japan and the rest of my students are white. They don’t often present any differences in class or in their papers so I am left with assuming that my class is coming from a very non-diverse standpoint. Needless to say this is all taking it’s toll on me.

    Anyways, in response to your question what prevents us from being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit sometimes it feels like everything else keeps us from being present… prepping for next class, worrying that the students aren’t getting what they should be out of lecture, stressing out that your teaching evaluations are going to be bad when you get upset and call out your students for not challenging their own assumptions about racism, power, privilege, oppression, fixating on how to make oneself more valuable to your department/college/institution as a contingent faculty member… should I continue?

    Wow, this was a lot of unloading but I think that we should really discuss the very real stressors and concerns that often block us from being fully present in the classroom that sometimes emerge from our often emotionally draining (emotional labor anyone) students to the realities of feeling all of our other pressures!

    I still want to continue thinking through this. Maybe we could ask Shindi about furthering this dialogue! We should tell her about our blog!

  3. SLP says:

    Hey KCF–I meant to respond to your comment sooner–has it really been this long? Wow. Hopefully, your class is going better. Teaching is really hard–especially when you are making yourself so vulnerable all of the time. In answering the question of what prevents us from being wholly present in mind, body, and spirit, I agree with many of the reasons you give. I would add that I worry (recently, with greater frequency) about my troubling/unconventional methods and whether or not I am just too “undisciplined” for the academy.

    I like your mention of emotional labor and I agree that we should tell Shindi about the blog and invite her to join us in this discussion. Teaching is so draining, even as it can be energizing (like today in my class when my students had an awesome discussion and I successfully “live-tweeted” class). Years of teaching can take their toll; i haven’t even been teaching that long (only 4.5 years/16 classes) and I’m already starting to feel burned-out. In Teaching to Transgress bell hooks suggests that teachers should be allowed to take more breaks from teaching as a possible solution to burn-out. But who can take breaks–will you ever get a job again? Who will pay your bills? So, how do we take care of ourselves if/when we have to keep teaching? How do we ensure that our emotional labor doesn’t drain us too much?

    BTW, have you seen the video that’s making the rounds called, So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities? I think it speaks to a lot of the structural reasons why we can’t be fully present in the classroom.