In the kind of serendipity that makes me think it might not be an accident, I'll be covering a class for a colleague tomorrow. These students specialize in equity and in the last class session's evaluation, made it clear that the lesson plan a colleague and I put together was pretty much trash. As the person that brought in most of the readings they hated, I think I was supposed to be a lot more defensive than I was.
My response when I saw what they had to say - excitement.
Much of my work these days is spent trying to find practical resources for instructors that don't really care much about equity or inclusion outside of needing to not get horrible course evaluations and meeting the new requirements our office has implemented. So I focus on what is practical for the person who doesn't really care. These were the readings that I pulled for this topic about how to do better. Think bell hooks in how she talks about Paulo Freire in Teaching to Transgress:
"Think of the work as water that contains some dirt. Because you are thirsty you are not too proud to extract the dirt and be nourished by the water.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't see the work of Derald Wing Sue even close to being as transformative for me as the work of Freire has been (because I'm with you, bh), but sometimes practical problems require practical solutions, especially in a space where few solutions are offered beyond the ever-present-and-banal "increasing self-awareness".
But these equity students didn't approach it that way; they saw all the things wrong with the language Sue was using and gave quite insightful, critical, and somewhat scathing critiques of the work we offered as readings.
And I loved it.
The second I read it, I saw all the things that they said from the critical lens I had set aside for the sake of offering something to those departments that they could wrap their minds around. More importantly, it let me engage with the content in a way that I've been craving for many moons at this point. And introduced the new challenge of how do we make the class meaningful for students that are well past the just-getting-started phase of their antiracist journey.
So tomorrow, we'll talk about what my approach was, what their insights helped me see, and how to take the content that was designed with the beginner in mind and apply a train-the-trainer approach for the equity students to continue to grow their skills. I'm a little nervous in that excited the night before the first day of school way that I haven't had in some time.