This episode is part three of a four part mini-series on the NEH-funded project "Toward a Pedagogy from Crisis.” Jolie speaks with Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino, an assistant professor in children’s and adolescent literature, and a “camp counselor” for a month-long summer program for humanities faculty on adaptive teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis. Tiffany Scarola, an instructor in the University Writing Program, joins to share her experience as a camp attendee. They discuss building just and equitable learning communities within larger, and frequently inequitable, institutions.

Announcer:

From Bowling Green State University and the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, this is BG Ideas.

Musical Intro:

I'm going to show you this with a wonderful experiment.

Jolie:

Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society and the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. I'm Dr. Jolie Sheffer. This episode is part of a mini series focusing on a National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored project called "Toward A Pedagogy From Crisis: Adaptive Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University during COVID-19."

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are not recording in the studio, but are at home talking via phone and computer. As always, the opinions expressed on the podcast are those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of BGSU or its employees. Bowling Green State University is located in the great black swamp, long a meeting place of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Fox, Potawatomie, Erie, Miami, Peoria, Chippewa, and Seneca Indian tribes. We honor the rich history of this land and its indigenous inhabitants past and present.

Today I'm very pleased to be joined by Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino and Tiffany Scarola. Rachel serves as one of the NEH project's camp counselors during the summer camp. She teaches courses on children's and adolescent literature for the English department. Her research examines digital youth cultures, girlhood studies, and social justice themes and children's literature. Tiffany is an instructor in the University Writing Program where she teaches first year composition, and she was in an NEH camp participant this summer. Her research interests include encouraging student cognitive processing and establishing a cult of vulnerability in classroom environments. Rachel and Tiffany, thank you very much for joining me today.

Rachel:

Thank you for having me.

Tiffany:

Yeah. Thank you for having us.

Jolie:

Equity, accessibility and social justice are clear priorities in the NEH project, and they're also at the heart of the research and the teaching that both of you do. Rachel, could you start off by talking about how your research on youth literature is a catalyst for conversations about equity injustice? Is this a relatively new phenomenon in children's literature or is there a longer history of that kind of connection?

Rachel:

That's a great question. There is a pretty long history of youth literature being a tool for conversations around equity and justice. So I'm thinking specifically of the example of The Brownies' Book, that was a magazine that was specifically put out to address perceived gaps, real gaps, in the literature that was being written for Black and brown youth. And the purposes of that magazine were very, very explicit that it would be to lift up Black youth, to help them to really see their value in a society that was devaluing them. And this was in the 1920s, I don't think I said that initially.

Rachel:

And since then, youth literature has definitely served kind of a conservative function in upholding social values in some capacities, but there has always been youth literature that is breaking boundaries and that is really pushing for more complex conversations. And I think because youth literature is a space where cultural values are really taught and disseminated to young people, it makes sense that we kind of see both sides of that. That we might see more conservative sides of that, but we also see sides that are very like pushing forward and trying to work toward equity.

Jolie:

How does your own research in this area inform your teaching?

Rachel:

A lot of my research deals with how... It's kind of at the intersections of education and literary studies. So I look at a lot how teachers might use certain books in their classrooms to have conversations around equity and justice. So you might imagine that that then kind of bleeds over into my own classroom of how I'm using the books that I'm working with in my classroom to have conversations with pre-service teachers and other students taking my classes around social justice. So for example, this semester I'm teaching a class on American histories in youth literature, where we're really looking at how certain dominant narratives of the history of the United States are countered or questioned through contemporary youth literature. And I'm taking some of the research that I've done about how books like Thanhha Lai's Inside Out and Back Again, which is a verse novel about the Vietnam war, how that book really offers a different kind of narrative around the experience of Vietnamese refugees and the experience of refugees in general. And then kind of flips that on its head for child audiences and for adult audiences, as well.

Jolie:

Tiffany, you focus on breaking down barriers in writing classrooms through de-centering yourself as the instructor and using what you call "unusual teaching methods," such as bringing in popular culture and social media as a tool for teaching research and writing. Can you give some examples and explain how you are re-imagining pedagogy for your current students?

Tiffany:

Well, one of the things I do is something that I've done actually the last few years is that I write alongside them. Every assignment that they write, I also write a version of that assignment and I do a true rough draft and a true final draft. I make sure that they know completely transparent that, "Hey, this is a real rough draft and this is something that real writers struggle with." It's not just this kind of like product endgame type of situation and emphasizing the fact that it is process over product. And that's something that has really helped them a lot over the last few years. I think I started doing it, I want to say in maybe 2018 is when I started first doing it with the more research heavy 1120 courses. And I did like a proposal with them. I did an annotated bibliography all like following the same type of advice that I give them, like saying, "Yeah, I could write on something fancy or I could write on something that I actually have a great deal of ethos connected to it."

Tiffany:

Cause that's something that I always see, they come up with these topics that sound really good, but because they don't have any first person perspective or an actual true investment in the topic, they get stuck at like the worst possible spot. Cause yeah, they can find the research, but then when they go to sit down to write it, if they don't understand the kind of complex scenarios that are being discussed in the heavy research that they're finding, they struggle. So I try to do that with them and so I've done that the last few years in the classroom and they have really taken to it. I've even been doing it this semester where I do the rough draft. I post it the week before they do so like, I'm even like, "Yeah, I'm one of those annoying students who always has to have it done early, guys."

Tiffany:

And I even had a student in class the other day, like outright say, "I can tell that this is a real rough draft."

Tiffany:

I'm like, "What are you talking about?"

Tiffany:

"Well, you have needles up there instead of needless."

Tiffany:

I'm like, "Yes, I know. And that's a good lesson to always read through your work and not rely on spellcheck, cause that's not spelled incorrectly, but that is obviously the wrong word."

Tiffany:

And you know I use those types of like "ahas" that they bring into it as these like true teachable moments. And it is very frightening actually to have them read it, but letting them know that like, "Hey guys, this is actually scary." And like letting them know that it is something that really does not get any easier over time, even being on the other side of the classroom and they truly value it.

Tiffany:

And we have that happened the other day and I was so excited when they said that. I was like, "Yeah, but see this is a good thing, cause yeah, you can use Grammarly and you can use spellcheck, but it's still a thing that you have to actually read through your content." So that's something that I truly value and they do too. And it allows them also to be more open with the struggles that they're having with their own work. So they were very grateful for that. So that kind of the evolution and arc of kind of some of the things I've done in the classroom to kind of create that sense of camaraderie.

Jolie:

One of the other features of the pandemic is that it has really made visible long-standing inequities in the US, right. We see this in every aspect of the pandemic, the economic fallout of the pandemic, which communities are disproportionately impacted, the health disparities, as well as access issues. Right? Sort of poor students, Black and brown students, rural students, not having the same kind of access even to Internet. And we've talked about bandwidth issues and we're seeing food insecurity, housing insecurity, as well as police brutality, things like that. So I'm curious for both of you, how do you see structural inequalities in some of the conventional policies and practices of higher education and how are you trying to challenge some of those or rethink them to reduce some of those inequities?

Rachel:

That's a really good question. I think the very first thing that came to my mind as you were speaking, which is not... Might at first appear a little bit more tangential, but something that I've been thinking about a lot really recently that I've noticed with my students, especially first-generation college students and lower income students, are really trying to get the most bang for their buck from the college experience. Understandably so, but then that has manifested them taking 18 credit hours every semester in a way that the oddness of this semester of having this mix of a lot of them are taking a mix of hybrid classes like asynchronous classes, synchronous classes, and trying to balance taking six classes, all meeting in different modalities, all with different deadlines. It's terrible. I cannot imagine that, like I think back to my own undergrad experience and it just seems like such an impossible thing.

Rachel:

And it's very frustrating to me that this is something that they have to do because they don't want to have to take an extra semester. They need to finish as soon as possible. And I totally understand why they're doing it, but it is an inequity that students who have more luxury to potentially take another semester to not try to finish as fast that they are able to take four classes and be a little bit more comfortable. So something that I have really tried to impress upon my students is I instituted a policy this semester of a two week window for deadlines. No questions asked. I think they think that I'm not serious about it. Like that I don't mean what I say. Every time that I get an email that's like, "I'm really overwhelmed. I forgot about this. I'm so sorry. I'll get it to you. Like in a couple of hours."

Rachel:

Like, take your time. You have two weeks, no questions asked. And the policy initially I put it in place thinking primarily about health reasons and giving that two week window would just allow just a blanket. You know if they're quarantining and then very worried about not sure if they were exposed, that that would give them space. But what it has really turned into is a space for all of the messiness that this semester has brought. And specifically I'm thinking about students who are just very overwhelmed, having that extra space allows them to do the work and the time that they have versus trying to make everything fit when they have a paper for all six of their classes due on the same day, which has happened.

Jolie:

What about for you, Tiffany? Are you thinking about particular ways that the university may not have been set up towards equity and things that you may be doing to try and shift that balance a bit?

Tiffany:

I mean, I think all things considered the university has done as much as it was able to do in such a short timeframe, trying to get the needs of certain students in as well as they could, like with that MyDesign BGSU thing that they had. I know that even though I'm primarily teaching hybrid sections, I have students that are fully remote students in my hybrid sections and making the reasonable accommodations for them to still be able to participate in the class content over the course of the semester, because there's various reasons for why they're unable to physically be in the classroom. I have had everything from they're just concerned about their health to they have only my class as the hybrid class. So they're not going to spend the money on the dorms and the apartment and stuff like that to just be in there for just my class.

Tiffany:

Over the last few weeks I've had students who are commuting from home because maybe they only have two hybrid classes, unable to show up on time or late and stuff like that. I've always liked to think that I've been relatively flexible with that type of thing even more so this semester with the fact that there's so many things operating against us. Like how Rachel said, with students that don't have the luxury of being able to just kind of take the regular standard full load of classes. One thing that I've always valued about higher ed is the degree of autonomy that we have with some of those things. Obviously we always abide by university and department policies and stuff like that, but there is that like we're allowed to do that. And I think it's something that is important because we don't know always the backgrounds of where our students are coming from and it applies to obviously race and ethnicity and gender, but it also applies to learning abilities.

Tiffany:

I think that this whole pandemic has brought to light a lot of the issues regarding transparency too. I mean, one thing that I really hope comes out of all of this is that instead of just preaching the term "transparency," we actually enact transparency in like a real way, cause it's such a higher-ed buzzword and we all know this. We've all been in those meetings where they say the word and like everybody kind of gets like the silent, "Ooh," going on. But I really hope that that's one of the more positive things that comes out of it for both students who are the more, racial groups, gender, all that stuff. But also for those kids that maybe are not part of one of those more protected groups, but still need just as much attention because they have an IEP, some kind of learning disability that they need compensation for.

Jolie:

I think part of what you're talking about is whether it was formalized or just kind of normative in higher ed was really like students and faculty members were expected to sort of check their lives at the classroom door, right? You walk into that space and now it's an intellectual space, our bodies, our spirituality, our families, our material circumstances, those are meant to be left outside and we are just meant to connect like mind to mind. And I think what the pandemic has revealed is that's impossible.

Jolie:

That is such an expectation of students having enough to eat, having a safe place to live, of having access to the tools and resources of having kind of learning styles that match the instructors perfectly. It's sort of, there's a whole list that is unspoken with those expectations. And I think one of the things that both of you are talking about is finding in this moment, a kind of radical transparency, a shared vulnerability that when everyone is out of sorts, when everyone feels vulnerable, it actually creates a space to bring our whole selves into the classroom. It's actually essential for learning, right? Because it gets back to things that both of you were talking about, which is you need to meet students where they are so then you can tell them where you're going to go together. Right? And I think for too often that has been a one directional conversation. And I think that's one of the things the summer camp was really interested in breaking down.

Rachel:

I was just going to say that, I think that is something that when both of y'all were speaking, I was just really thinking about how rigor above all has kind of seemed to be the way that we operated. That we needed to have these rigorous classes where you were, it was assuming that as long as you worked hard, that you would, that nothing else mattered. As long as you were able, that you were willing to put in the intellectual work that you would do well in the class. And that's just not, that's not how any of this works. Like we have so many other things going on in our lives. And I do think that that transparency and I think radical compassion too for students, I kind of, as you were just saying, Jolie, to allow for that vulnerability,

Jolie:

We're going to take a quick break. Thanks for listening to the BG Ideas podcast.

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Jolie:

Hello, and welcome back to the BG Ideas podcast today. I'm talking to Dr. Rachel Rickard Rebellino and Tiffany Scarola about their work and experience on the NEH sponsored project "Toward a Pedagogy From Crisis." One of the other areas, I think that has been a part of the discussion about curricular change and about rethinking higher education has often related to the syllabus and the reading list. Listeners may be familiar with the phrase of decolonize the classroom or challenging the syllabus. So, Rachel, how do you think about these practices and what resources or approaches would you encourage listeners to take on when thinking about ways of re-imagining some of those conventional pieces of a college experience to be more equitable, inclusive, transparent, compassionate, things like that.

Rachel:

So something that I think about a lot with when I'm thinking about how I'm designing my syllabus and thinking about class readings in particular, is the way that syllabi can really reveal the way that whiteness is assumed to be the norm. And that reading scholarship by white researchers, reading books by white authors is very much the assumption and that then other books or scholarship by authors of color that gets kind of like relegated to these like African-American literature classes or multicultural literature classes versus having syllabi that are truly inclusive. And so something that I am very attentive to in how I designed my courses is really looking carefully at whose voices am I privileging in not only the primary readings that I am teaching, but also the secondary readings that I'm teaching. So for example, I'm thinking about the ways that I... Something that I have been critiquing myself about is the way that I talk about the history of children's literature and that historically I would talk about the history of children's literature from this very kind of like white, British, American perspective.

Rachel:

And then later in the semester, I would have a class period where I talked about the history of African-American children's literature and the history of like more inclusive children's literature. And I still, I'm not a hundred percent sure why that was how I divided that up. Perhaps it was because it was how I was taught, and putting my classes together over the past couple of years, I've really tried to like it's a small thing, but merge those two. Those are not separate histories. Those are one history. And if I'm only teaching history by if I'm framing the general history as reading authors, as reading white scholars talking about the history of children's literature who are primarily focusing on white children's literature, that's a huge gap.

Rachel:

So in terms of how that applies to just thinking about our syllabus in general, I think it's important to go back to those really primary foundational things. How are we introducing our concepts? What is at the core of what are our first... What are our readings our first two or three weeks of class? Who are we introducing? What are the frameworks we're introducing for reading? And because that's the knowledge that like our students might know nothing about our subject and likely do know very little about our subject coming in. So if what we're giving them as the foundation is this very colonized foundation, what is that doing to our class as a whole?

Jolie:

Tiffany, do you have anything you want to add about kind of when you're thinking about the syllabus and the readings, things you're doing to create a more inclusive experience?

Tiffany:

What I try to do when building my syllabus? I mean, clearly I don't get the opportunity to incorporate literature and stuff like that as traditionally thought with most types of writings slash English type classes. However, especially in the 1110 class, which is more about kind of the buildings of foundations of writing, I try to, because I mean the scholarship is largely kind of from white contributors to largely white audiences. And that is a huge problem. The assignments that they just recently finished was the literacy narrative examination. I had an excerpt from Malcolm X. I also had an excerpt from other narrative life of Frederick Douglas, which is more traditionally used and maybe like an antebellum lit type course. But I use that as an example of a literacy narrative in that along with some of the more commonly known authors reflected in that type of genre of writing.

Tiffany:

With the assignment that my students are working on right now with regards to discourse communities, one of the readings I have is Mother Tongue by Amy Tan. So I try to find a bevy of authors from those different backgrounds to kind of further reinforce the diversity of this particular topic because we're not just teaching to one particular ethnic group of students. And I feel like that is a big problem that they feel devalued when they don't, there's a big... There's something to be said about while this author doesn't have a similar name to me and doesn't look like me on the dust jacket or on the little picture and like the bio, and as much as we don't want to admit it, it kind of does to a point and that affects them and that affects their participation in it. So that's what I try to do when I incorporate stuff into my syllabus and how I design my syllabus.

Tiffany:

But I also try to think about the various backgrounds that my students come from with regards to their learning. Usually one of the first assignments I have them do in either of the first year writing courses is I ask them to let me know about their previous experiences in their writing English classes and what have they experienced. And, I mean, it's largely, yeah, they've had to read books and take quizzes and maybe write one big five paragraph research paper. But every once in a while, there are those students that don't really have the same type of experience with it. And they come from a variety of different ethnicities and backgrounds and stuff like that. So, trying to pace it so that it's enough space for both the students who have the strong background and don't need as much foundation building and allowing me also to be able to build the foundation for those who need it.

Tiffany:

So I try to incorporate both with diversity in terms of actual ethnicity, but also again with diversity and learning styles. And because there are students who constantly come, when they come in in the first few weeks of class, they come in with their IEPs and it's like, these are the accommodations that I need for this class and making sure that, "Okay, well, good. How I broke it up this should allow you enough time," or having a more flexible due date for stuff. I always say the students who maybe have Asperger's or ADHD or something like that, if you are struggling, know that you can come to me and just say, "Hey, I'm having a really hard time. Is there any way I can have even a few extra hours or even an extra day," as long as they're doing that and I write that into the syllabus.

Tiffany:

To say that, "Yeah, obviously late work is not great, but if you come to me and let me know, I can make the accommodation for you so that you don't feel as bogged down with the assignments." Cause it's a lot. So that's what I try to do whenever I build a class. And I try to, with a reasonable amount of expectations and that's also where having the prerecorded lectures has been helpful, especially this semester. And in a lot of those, I break down the required readings that I have for the course.

Tiffany:

And I've even told my students that if you guys have to choose between reading one of the articles I've posted, or just listening to the audio lecture, and you have a whole ton of other stuff for one of your other classes, just listen to the audio lecture because it breaks it down for you in a more manageable way so that you are not perhaps as bogged down and maybe you can listen to it while you're working on something for another class. So that's kind of what I try to do, but there's still a lot of scholarship with regards to the specific subjects that I teach that is obviously kind of one way. And that makes it difficult. So I'm constantly looking for that and when I find it, I do my best to incorporate it,

Jolie:

The name of the NEH camp and project use the term "crisis." And it's not hard to see why, right? We are living in a time of unbelievable challenge. And the pandemic certainly is a crisis, but the camp also tried to emphasize the idea of play and playfulness to a great degree. Rachel, can you talk about why that was and what it meant for you to emphasize play particularly around the idea of creating community?

Rachel:

I think it's really easy for classroom spaces to become these, especially like higher ed spaces, to become these very rigid spaces where we do things a certain way. This is what our lectures look like. This is how our discussions look like. We have to use these big words and speak in a certain way and write in a certain way. The shift in spring to the very sudden shift to online, things change rapidly. And all of a sudden people's dogs and cats and kids are in the screen and our video is cutting out or I'm talking for... I start babbling on and I'm on mute. And just this kind of like, everything becomes very silly. And I felt like for me personally, just having, you have to embrace the silliness. If you're not going to embrace the silliness, it's just going to get like weirder and worse.

Rachel:

You have to kind of embrace how strange everything is in addition to how awful everything is. So when it came to designing the camp, I was leading our week on building community and I created this bingo board that kind of incorporated choice and choosing your own adventure through these different assignments or activities related to community. And I think that doing that really... I'm a firm believer in choice and kind of calling back to our previous discussion about readings and decolonizing the syllabus. I think that's another way that you can do that is to bring in student choice with readings as much as possible so that they can find things that fit with them and their interests and experiences and gaps that they might have that they can then fill if you allow for choice. So choice has always been a huge part of my own pedagogy.

Rachel:

And I think that that alliance... the intersections of choice and play and kind of just breaking out of structure, I think are important in teaching in general, but then maybe become especially important to call back to our very first discussion about kind of like thinking about the digital space. If we're in this kind of amorphous digital space where you can do all sorts of interesting things, I think the best way to experiment with that is through play. And they're trying things out and being willing to say, "Okay, this didn't work. This was not effective. And it failed massively. And that's fine. We're going to try this other thing," and just kind of playing as opposed to being stuck in, like, "This is what we're doing. Here are the hard and fast rules and we can't break from that."

Jolie:

So, Tiffany, as a camper and now back in the classroom, how did that spirit of playfulness and experimentation affect you?

Tiffany:

I mean, I feel like Rachel and I are aligned in kind of our approach to teaching and hearing Rachel say these things and in my head going, "Yeah, I do that too. Okay, good. I'm not the only one that kind of has this really weird kind of already kind of playful approach to things." Recognizing that "Okay, A is not working. So let's try B" is so very important and it's something that I've always strived to do. And I will even do it in the classroom because I very much believe that teaching is wonderful and all this stuff, but it's also a performance art to an extent. You are in front of the room and, yeah, you can take classes on classroom management, stuff like that. But if you don't have the charisma to get the students excited, even to the point where maybe they're just listening there quietly and, you know now you can only see about like their eyes up, but still as long as their eyes are on you and not on their phone, you're good.

Tiffany:

But that kind of reaffirmed some of the things for me that I already do as an instructor because I've always tried to take it very much in that vein. Like one of the ways that I would often start the class would be with this kind of Pepsi challenge thing. Where I'd have two lists and it was like, cause I don't know if you guys remember, but like I was a kid of the nineties. So like the whole, "Which is better Coke or Pepsi," and do that sort of thing as a way to kind of build the community and seeing who likes A over B and things like that. And even in the middle of a lecture, if something is clearly not working or if I can clearly tell that they're like, "Oh, my gosh. Please stop."

Tiffany:

I'll be like, "Okay, y'all are obviously falling asleep," and all of a sudden be like, "What? No, I'm not." It's like, "Ah, I see the faces." And engaging and acknowledging it in a way that doesn't make them feel bad about it being like, "Dude, it's okay too." Just like, for instance, a few weeks ago I had to take over a course from someone who was unable to finish out the rest of the semester. And it's an 8:00 AM Monday course and... Yeah, I saw your eyes grow and Jolie. Yeah, I saw both of y'all... Anyway, bear with me for a second. So my eyes did the same thing, but the morning of the first Monday 8:00 AM, I'm walking, I walk in and I set stuff up and I'm sitting there and I'm waiting, the students come in, and I waited about two minutes to start class.

Tiffany:

And I said to them, I was like, "Yeah, so 8:00 AM classes, those are awful." And they all kind of nod their heads and laugh and it's like, "Yeah, don't worry. The teachers hate it too, guys. It's not just you. Like sometimes it's just really awful." And like playing it off like, "Okay, well now you have me. And like, ha ha," like look at this whole kind of really playful thing. Or it also makes me think about, I don't remember if I put this in any of this stuff for the camp, Rachel, but this is something that my first year teaching, I was adjuncting and they had me in a bio lab to teach a writing class. And in this bio lab, it had all these taxidermied, freaky animals all over the room and it scared the bejesus out of me. So I thought it would be funny to walk in five minutes late and pretend to be a bio 1110 instructor instead.

Tiffany:

And so I walked in and I didn't say anything. And I turned on the computer and I waited and I like checked my watch. And I'm like "Okay. So I'm Dr." I can't remember the name. It was some weird name. Like I made up a name and everything.

Tiffany:

And I went on for about three minutes before anybody like stopped me and said, "I think you're in the wrong room."

Tiffany:

I'm like, "Oh wait, is this supposed to be composition?" And all of the students kind of like shaking their heads real nervously as they're shuffling through their schedule, like trying to figure out if they're in the wrong room. It's like, "Oh wait, is this comp?"

Tiffany:

And they're like, "Yeah."

Tiffany:

I'm like, "I'm sorry, I'm just kidding. Like I'm your teacher, it's all good." And just like this communal sigh of relief that came over the room, and that was one of the best classes that I ever taught because of doing that and having the willingness to show the vulnerability of it, cause you're putting yourself out there every time you're in front of a room and letting them know that, yeah, this is me. And that class, most of those students ended up taking the next class with me the next year.

Tiffany:

And a lot of them were like, that's a result of you doing that and like showing this different relationship than kind of this automaton they believe us to be. So I liked seeing with that and especially with some of the stuff Rachel presented during that week of, like this is how you build community and like reaffirming that, okay, I'm not just weird. This is actually something that works. It's just my approach is just kind of this niche approach and embracing that for what it is and further creating. Cause it's why this kind of cult of vulnerability is this thing that I... this kind of quasi phrase that I created is why I do that because it builds community without the students feeling pressure to become part of the community. It's a welcoming sense that they get that I'm open and receptive to their ideas, which in turn also helps with equitability and diversity and stuff like that because they're coming to me. So that's how I kind of further facilitate that throughout.

Jolie:

I have one final question for you both, which is to ask you to reflect on our current moment and to ask, what is the lesson, the most important lesson you hope we take away from this situation? What is the sort of best case version that going forward we change our pedagogical practices? So you want to start, Tiffany? What for you is something you hope we take away from this moment?

Tiffany:

Are you speaking in terms of like the pandemic and how we've had to adjust our approaches? Okay.

Jolie:

Yeah.

Tiffany:

Okay. I have to go back to my favorite word of, probably the millennium, is "transparency." I really hope that instead of just preaching it, we actually practice it because that's what the students need right now. They are craving knowing that they're not the only ones struggling. Granted our struggles are never going to be the same and we're never going to be exactly in the same point, but at least we can meet... at least if we try to meet them midway because transitioning to college is so frightening for so many students, especially for those from more vulnerable populations. It's something so far removed from everything that they know. And right now on having the pandemic on top of that, just further compounds the issues that we so infrequently just kind of glance over because we've all been through it.

Tiffany:

So it's like it's a rite of passage. Yes. But they still need to know that, they need that reassurance from us. And one of the only ways to do that is to recognize the fact that we struggle too. The struggles might not be the same and they might not affect us in the same way, but we all still struggle. And it's okay because it's in times of great crisis that people really become themselves and figure out the people that they want to be. But they still need to know that they have scaffolded support, especially from educators.

Tiffany:

Educators, and as you both know, sometimes we're surrogate parents. Sometimes we act as therapists. Sometimes students are so inspired by us and we have this like superhero quality that they attach to us, and I think in recent years in education that's kind of become removed. And it's shifted to this alternate universe and I really think that with the pandemic and acknowledging all our vulnerabilities... Obviously you still need to maintain a separation of church and state as it were, for lack of a better phrase, between the professional, you, and then the you, but there's a way to do it.

Tiffany:

And people should be more encouraged to do that to facilitate community because right now we really need it. And it's something that we've always needed, but we need it more so now than ever so that we don't collapse so that we come out of it and are able to be strong at the end.

Jolie:

What about for you, Rachel? What do you hope we take away from this moment?

Rachel:

I think the thing that I keep coming back to is just a radical care and empathy and that the being in a global pandemic, having these important and awful and difficult conversations around race and really trying to... really navigating the multiple intersecting ways that Black and brown bodies have been attacked this summer. Like these are all crises that are happening kind of collectively and communally, but our students may or may not be in crisis at any point. Like there are crises that are happening every day to our students, whether they are small or large. And the fact that we are all collectively in crisis, I think has made a lot of people willing to be more caring and to offer more flexibility. I know for my own teaching personally, like I have been more flexible with students through this and I've been thinking a lot about like, why don't I... If and when things are quote/unquote "back to normal," which is a huge question mark that, who knows.

Rachel:

But if and when things are back to normal, whatever normal means, why not maintain some of these same policies? Why not maintain radical policies around accepting late work and allowing students to make up classes when they are in crisis? Why not have more no questions asked policies for certain, rather than trying to like police every activity that students are doing?

Rachel:

And of course, will there be people who take advantage of that? Yes, there will be. But are there people that take advantage of the current system and that are coasting through because of other advantages they have? Yes. So why not maintain some of these policies and some of these procedures that we've put in place now, once we're all back together? So yeah. Radical care and empathy, and to echo what Tiffany said, vulnerability. I think that this being in the pandemic has certainly broken down some barriers that I had built for myself around how I present myself to my students. And that's, I mean, I don't think there's... I don't think you can go back after you're like, "I'm a real human, not just your performing song and dance teacher."

Jolie:

Hmm. Thank you both so much for joining me, Rachel and Tiffany. Listeners can keep up with ICS by following us on Twitter and Instagram @icsbgsu. You can listen to BG Ideas wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Please subscribe and rate us on your preferred platform. Our producers are Chris Cavera and Marco Mendoza with sound editing by Marco Mendoza. Research assistance for this episode was provided by Stevie Scheurich with editing by Kari Hanlin.

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