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robertogreco : kevingannon   3

On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others – The Tattooed Professor
"We’re not sending graduates “out into the real world”–they’ve been there for their entire lives, and most of them know at least implicitly how the deck is stacked against people regardless of how hard they’re bootstrapping. We have given our students a wide array of tools, and tried to prepare them to use those tools well for themselves and for their communities. We teach in the hopes of a better, more compassionate, and more just world. But then we tell a graduation-day story that assumes our graduates will go out into a broken world riven by hate, fear, and inequality but also that it’s their fault if that world beats them down. I don’t think we do this on purpose, but the myth is no less insidious for being unintentional. Consider this: as the college student population increases, so to has the incidence and significance of mental health concerns for our students. Substance abuse among college students exhibits several worrisome trends. The scale and scope of the sexual assault epidemic on our campuses is horrifying. The uncertainty of the post-2008 job market and the increasingly contingent and precarious nature of work in our neoliberal world present a post-graduation outlook that is bleaker for this generation than it was for any of their predecessors (to say nothing of the victim-blaming from those very forebears).

These are interrelated and telling concerns; they describe a significant portion of our students’ reality. Yet we’re telling them that effort and pluckiness will suffice to change the world, just like that effort and pluckiness got them to graduation. But it wasn’t just effort and pluckiness. For many of our students, the path to graduation was strewn with detours, interruptions, even crises like the ones detailed above–perhaps the way forward for them will be littered with similar obstacles. We celebrate the triumph over adversity, as well we should, but I wish we would give ourselves permission to recognize that adversity as something more than the thing we get over and never speak of again. If we don’t sit with the rough edges of our journey, we forget how we made it. Our students make it through like we did: sometimes through individual effort, but more often from the support, compassion, and vital companionship and affirmation of those around us. I don’t think we pay nearly enough attention to that fact. Nobody does it all by themselves, but I worry that we’re telling our students they have to do exactly that, rather than giving them permission to fail, to fall short, to admit they need help. Because those lessons are hard ones to learn, all the more so if there aren’t examples or encouragement for us to follow. Believe me, I know."



"I was afraid of other people, and afraid of what I’d learn from them. I believed asking for help was an admission of defeat. I’m in a career field that places a high value upon the appearance of professionalism; I’m expected to have it together, to know what I’m doing. To admit that wasn’t the case was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can see now that I wouldn’t have done it were it not for the people around me who helped me feel safe and supported when I was at my most raw and wounded. I didn’t want to talk about my past, what I’d done, or what had been done to me, but those around me helped me realize that if I didn’t, I would continue to carry it with me. Doctors, nurses, counselors, clergy, spouse, parents, siblings, co-workers, others in recovery, random strangers, Vin Scully, my pets–it was their voice, their connection, and their freely-given kindness that sustained me.

It was not the smoothest or easiest road from there to here; don’t cue the happy closing music yet. I still struggle. I still need lots of help. I still act like a jerk to the people who are helping. But I have learned this truth: there are times when life will break me. The problem isn’t being broken, it’s in not letting others help put me back together. When I graduated, I went out into the world, and the world beat me up while I sat and watched. I thought fighting back was a solo project, so I failed. Only when I gave others the chance to help me, and accepted that support and affirmation honestly and without begrudging it, did I stop getting beaten up.

That’s my advice, then, to you graduates. You will go forth and hopefully forge many successes for you and your loved ones. But you will also fall short. There will be failures. There will be wounds inflicted by yourself and by others. You will find yourself in places you did not plan to be. You may even find yourself broken. And when that happens, remember that you are neither the first nor the last to end up there. Others have, too, and they can help. It is no defeat to ask for others to help you, and to depend upon that assistance. It’s a victory over fear and anger, that’s what it is. As a society, we tell ourselves that the individual reigns supreme. But it does serious damage when we take that ethos too seriously. Not every problem can be solved by an individual. Not every success is the product of an individual. There is no shame in recognizing those facts as they operate in our lives."
via:audreywatters  kevingannon  2017  resilience  pluckiness  grit  education  realworld  highered  highereducation  adversity  mentalhealth  well-being  uncertainty  expectations  kindness  compassion  companionship  substanceabuse  academia  colleges  universities  brokenness  professionalism  help  helplessness  success  individualism  support  assistance 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Unbroken | Music for Deckchairs
"Fault is the shadow thrown by the magic bean we sell as the means of clambering up to a future in which not everyone can win. This bean is something to do with making an effort, toughing it out, following the rules. Resilience, grit—we peddle all sorts of qualities demanded when the world is harsh. And I think this is why we monitor attendance as a kind of minor virtue, a practice of grit. But when we make showing up compulsory, then we have to have a system of checking it, and penalties, and some means of managing something we call “genuine” adversity, and the whole thing has to be insulated against complaint. (And if you want to know more about how this goes down, this forum is an eye-opener.)

Where I am we have a fixed tolerance for not showing up 20% of the time, which has the rat farming perverse incentive effect of causing every sensible student to calculate that they have two free tutorials they can plan to miss. And I’ve written this all over the place, so just bear with me while I haul out my soapbox one more time: we then ask students to get a GP certificate for every single additional missed class over the two free passes, which means that we are clogging up the waiting rooms and schedules of our overworked public health bulk billed GP clinics in order to sustain a rigid and penalty-driven policy that doesn’t prepare students for their professional futures, while they’re sneezing all over the really sick people around them.

(University business data divisions currently measuring every passing cloud over the campus, why not measure this? How many GP certificates for trivial illness have your attendance policies generated? How much public health time have you wasted pursuing this?)

Just quietly, I take a different approach. We talk about modelling attendance on the professional experience of attending meetings, including client meetings. If you can’t be there, you let people know in advance. If you can’t be there a lot, this will impact on your client’s confidence in you, or your manager’s sense that you are doing a good job. It may come up in performance management. Your co-workers may start to feel that you’re not showing up for them. Opportunities may dry up a bit, if people think of you as someone who won’t make a reliable contribution.

And at work there won’t always be a form, but you will need a form of words. You need to know how to talk about what you’re facing with the relevant people comfortably and in a timely way, ideally not after the fact of the missed project deliverable. If hidden challenges are affecting your participation now, you can expect some of these to show up again when you’re working. University should be the safe space to develop confidence in talking about the situation you’re in, and what helps you manage it most effectively. You need a robust understanding of your rights in law. And, sadly, you also need to understand that sometimes the human response you get will be uninformed, ungenerous or unaware of your rights, and you’ll need either to stand your ground or call for back up.

To me, this is all that’s useful about expecting attendance. It’s an opportunity for us to talk with students about showing up as a choice that may be negotiable if you know how to ask; about presence and absence as ethical practices; and about the hardest conversations about times when you just can’t, and at that point need to accept the kindness that’s shown to you, just as you would show it to others."



"To sustain compassionate workplaces, we’re going to need to do more than dashboard our moods in these simplistic ways and hurry on. We’re going to need to “sit with the rough edges of our journey”, as Kevin Gannon puts it, to understand how we each got here differently, in different states of mind, and to hold each other up with care.

This will take time."
katebowles  via:audreywatters  2017  education  absences  attendance  kindness  grit  seanmichaelmorris  lizmorrish  kevingannon  fault  compulsory  rules  incentives  unintendedconsequences  flexibility  listening  resilience  adversity  compliance  virtue  tolerance  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  us  conversation  compassion  work 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto – The Tattooed Professor
[Especially for this line: "Teaching is a radical act of hope."]

"Every summer, I take time to reflect on the academic year that was. The classes I taught, the workshops I either facilitated or attended, what I learned from failures and successes in and out of the classroom–when it comes to my teaching, I try to be a critically reflective practitioner. Directing a teaching center on my campus gives me a chance to also ground that reflection in the larger discourse about teaching and learning in higher education.

That discourse often doesn’t give one grounds for optimism; we’re continually reminded of the toll neoliberalism has exacted from higher education. Kansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois are only the most dramatic examples of a larger trend where higher education is a hostage to governing elites’ Randian economic fantasies. The fetishizing of “efficiencies” continues to erode faculty effectiveness, morale, and labor conditions. A narrow and misguided rhetoric of marketability and utility slowly chokes the Humanities. And, like a constant refrain above the din, we’re repeatedly told that students aren’t prepared for college, that technology makes them stupid, that none of them knows how to read or write or declaim or interact or balance a checkbook or do laundry or whatever. It’s easy, then, to slide into a sort of existential despair. Why bother teaching when it doesn’t matter? When no one cares about what you do or why you do it?

And, honestly, that’s where I was earlier this summer. It’s hard enough to cope with the challenges inherent in higher ed; coupled with the greasy dumpster fire that is our state of public affairs at the moment, it seems downright impossible. So I did what comes naturally to a historian–I went to my books, and then I wrote. Reconnecting with some of the books that have shaped me as an educator, and taking the time to write reflectively about where I think I stand, was a reminder that despite all of its problems, higher education is still a place of transformation and possibility. But it remains so only if we continually and intentionally hold it to the standards we know it should meet. And at the heart of that enterprise is what we do in the classroom. It comes down to, as it so often doefists, a conversation about teaching and learning.

In that spirit, I share here the products of my wrestling with angst and dismay, and the renewed drive it ultimately sparked.

This is my Teaching Manifesto.

If I want my students to take risks and not be afraid to fail then I need to take risks and not be afraid to fail.

It is tempting to think that “upholding disciplinary standards” is the only thing standing between us and the collapse of western civilization. It is also comically inaccurate.

Remember what Paolo Freire meant when he criticized the “banking model” of education, and take those insights to heart.

Learning cannot occur without metacognition and reflection. This applies to both us and our students.

Kids These Days are just like Kids in My Day, or Any Other Day, if we choose to remember honestly.

Our students are not us. If we merely teach to how we prefer to learn, we exclude a majority of our students.

I cannot assume my students will be able to do something that they have not been asked to do before coming to my class, and I cannot blame them for struggling with a task that’s new to them–no matter how ingrained that task is for me.

I am not the one to decide if a student is “ready for college.” That’s the student’s decision. If they’re admitted to my university and they’re in my class, I am ethically and morally obligated to give them my best.

They’re not deficiencies, they’re data points for our pedagogical decisions.

Just as students can get better at learning, I can get better at teaching. If I expect it from them, I should expect it from me.

There is a large body of scholarly research on teaching and learning. To not be conversant with at least its major findings is to commit professional malpractice.

If pedagogy and professional development are secondary priorities for you, don’t be surprised when your class is a secondary priority for your students.

It doesn’t matter how much I know if my students aren’t learning; knowledge must be used, not set up on a shelf to be admired but not touched.

Much of what we do in the classroom cannot be quantified.

And yet…“cannot be quantified” is not the same as “cannot be measured.” If we can’t demonstrate student learning, we aren’t doing it right.

Reclaim assessment for what it is meant to do: to show what our students can do as a result our classes. If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will tell them for us.

If universities truly value education, they cannot undercompensate or adjunctify the faculty and seriously claim to adhere to that commitment. As someone in a privileged academic position, I am obligated to speak this truth loudly and often.

Everyone is fighting their own battles, some on multiple fronts. Compassion and flexibility >>> being a hardass

Things whose pedagogical impact is often underestimated: empathy and humor.

Things whose pedagogical impact is often overestimated: shaming and rigidity.

When you say “rigor,” I think of corpses.

“Coverage” for coverage’s sake is where learning goes to die.

No matter what: Teaching is a radical act of hope."
pedagogy  technology  radicalism  teaching  2016  kevingannon  howwetech  why  thewhy  whyweteach  hope  rigor  empathy  humor  shaming  rigidity  flexibility  highered  highereducation  optimism  curriculum  manifestos  learning  metacognition  reflection  professionaldevelopment  content  knowledge  howwelearn  howweteach  via:audreywatters 
july 2016 by robertogreco

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