Friday, March 31, 2017

Thanks Fam, I Cried a lot of Happy Tears

This week we launched our Go Fund Me page for our new brain baby, All This Publications. There is nothing more nerve-wrecking than asking for money, especially from so many people at once. Having something so new and fragile be exposed to the world for the first time...Ideas are scary and acting on them is enough to make my skin try and force its way off my bones. It's uncomfortable and disconcerting no matter how much you love, believe and support your idea -when it is out in the world you are so protective of it and it effects you.

For every big deal, every birth, every book releaee, each blog post, all my 'firsts' I have five friends that I text immediately. I talk with them throughout the day and they ground me. They wrap me up, each in their own way. They keep me going, they remind me that I have been here before but most of all they remind me that I can do it because they believe in me. Scattered around the world but they always have my back, no matter how much time has passed. Friends-no family, I love you and I couldn't do anything without you.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." Helen Keller ❤️💛💚💙💜

Monday, March 27, 2017

Love Yourself

Getting dressed for a mad dash to Costco this evening I realized that I love my clothes. The bright blue t-shirt I bought for an 80's party in college, the overalls I desperately searched for and finally found, the wildly patterned 7 dollar slip-ons from H&M and it was in that moment I realized that I am happy.

I looked at my closet and every garment in it is something I will wear, something that reflects my mood, appetite, state of mind.

I had a complicated childhood, a confusing adolescence and a heartbreaking early adulthood. It made me anxious and insecure. It made me live like I had something to prove. But now looking at the vibrant colors, the bold textures, the too many scarves and the loud pairs of tights - I see that I am exactly where I want to be in my life. I look at my short skirts and flowly pants and I know that I have a job where I have freedom. Freedom to teach how I want and live how I want. I see my mountains of shoes and know I'm set for four seasons, another year of life. I still have the stretched out camisoles from when I was nursing. Maternity jeans that I keep for Thanksgiving and meals at Texas Roadhouse. Hats, to hide my growing out hair.  Leg warmers for when I attend a sexy heels class or go ice-skating. Long necklaces that got booted from my everyday wear once I had babies. The stiletto heels that serve as an homage to when I was younger and believed fashion over function. Vintage Jordan's that are still stained from stepping in cow poop from when I met my husband's family.

There is no item of clothing, at this point in my life, that I need to buy. Nothing that will make me feel more like myself. Nothing that will remind me of who I was before I was comfortable in my skin. Before I loved who I was.

My closet now, at age 30, is who I am. Strong and resilient. I am fulfilled and I am content.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Part 10 of 10

How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]

10 Make Room for HOPE

You’re doing incredible work but it is exhausting and sometimes unrewarding and often times negated however you need to understand that you are doing good work.  Reward yourself with someone that reiterates that.  Imagine how bogged down you feel at the end of your teaching days but remember you know that facts, you have the knowledge, you’ve done the research you have a better grasp than those that are not surrounded by a learning institution all day, who are not encouraged to educate themselves.  Imagine how much comfort we take in our education, our knowledge and now imagine you don’t have that to fall back on?  How much more chaotic everything seems.  That is why we cannot only recharge ourselves but our students also.  Don’t just hit them with the truth of the patriarchy also give them the good news, the proof of change, of progress, give them hope. 

When I discuss racism I always quote Rich Benjamin, “Interpersonal race relations — how we treat each other as human beings — are vastly better than in my parents' generation…”but I still finish the quote, “And yet, some things haven't changed. America is as residentially and educationally segregated today as it was in 1970.”  We discuss how much more needs to be done. 

We are all on a journey to learn, everyone is at a different point but we are all doing our best.  Remind our students that we live in an amazing country and that no matter the leader, the people within it are incredible.  We are allowed to criticize, we are allowed to hold our leaders accountable but now more than ever we must make sure that what we are doing in our classroom is teaching our students their rights.  Teaching them how to succeed and giving them the tools to do that.  We aren’t tasked with forcing them into a new identity.  Our goal shouldn’t be to make them all fit into one size or image.  We are to embrace them as they are.  We need to move past labels, break from stereotypes and push past our limitations.  We have the power to make our classrooms safe and interesting and challenging. Why shy away from that?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Part 9 of 10

How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]

9 Walk Your students through the steps of Accepting their Identity

Classroom lectures and activities that get students to hold a mirror up to themselves are always helpful.  It allows students to embrace who they are but it also enables them to begin to think about how their journey is different from those around them.  I have a colleague who shared this incredible activity with me, you may have heard variations of it.  Students are placed into groups and from there they are given supplies and asked to draw a picture.  One group has all the supplies needed to complete this task. They have markers of every imaginable color, they have paper, stickers, etc.  The other group has a couple markers and a smaller sheet of paper.  The last group has a single crayon and two sheets of paper that they will somehow have to conjoin for it to be large enough, as per the assignment guidelines.  As they work, you the educator work as a confederate, giving the highest praise to the first group.  The second group receives minimal praise while the last group gets constructive criticism that is negligent to accept their disadvantage.  After the drawings are presented ask the students how they felt working on this assignment.  Usually the students in the last group are fairly upset they weren’t able to showcase their best work, in some instances they won’t even finish the drawing because they feel hopeless that they will be able to succeed. Interestingly, the first group that had the most materials fails to notice that the other groups were given different supplies.  It’s a great way to introduce privilege and help students understand how blinding it can be. 

I always say that this is the first step because as we know when it comes to identity whether we are in the  nondominant or the dominant group we were not always self-aware.  There was a moment or series of interactions that exposed this to us.  What we do after this is pivotal.
The following are the steps that occur when we are developing our identities.  I have complied it in a chart but the content comes from, Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies an open source textbook that you can access in full from the following site,  

Nondominant Identity Development
4 stages of nondominant identity  N. Martin and Thomas K. Nakayama, Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 5th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2010), 173–76.
Stage 1
Unexamined Identity
Marked both by a lack of awareness of or lack of interest in one’s identity.  This stage ends as a person’s lack of interest in their own identity is replaced by an investment in a dominant group’s identity.
Stage 2
When an individual internalizes the values and norms of the dominant group.  This is done in an effort to avoid being perceived as different. Individuals may attempt to assimilate into the dominant culture by changing their appearance, nonverbal behaviors, their verbal and vocal practices, their language, or even their name.
Stage 3
Resistance & Separation
An individual with a nondominant identity may shift away from the conformity of the previous stage to engage in actions that challenge the dominant identity group. Individuals in this stage may also actively try to separate themselves from the dominant group, choosing instead to limit their interaction with those who share their nondominant identity.
Stage 4
This marks a period where individuals are able to reach a balance between their nondominant identities but also appreciating the other identities as well.  While anger in regards to their mistreatment from the dominant identity members may persist this frustration towards prejudice and discrimination is refocused.  For instance to work towards social justice.

Dominant Identity Development

Dominant identity development consists of five stages. Judith N. Martin and Thomas K. Nakayama,Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 5th ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2010), 177–80.

Stage 1
Groups may be aware of the  differences between themselves and marganizlezed gorup members but they may not understand that there is a hierarchy  or they don’t believe  the role they play in it.While nondominant  group members must understand their identity Due to Prejudice or discrimination, They experience, dominant Group members can remain in the unexamined stage for a long time.
Stage 2
The dominant Group Member will passively or actively accept people are treated differently than others but doesn’t do  anything either internally or externally to address it. It simply seems like the norm. Things like, “I know that racism exists, but my parents taught me to be a good person and see everyone as equal.” While This is a nice sentiment, it takes more than viewing everyone as equal to change anything.People in this stage May also insist that minorities are exaggerating their circumstances or whining and just need to work harder” or “get over it.” People will remain in this stage until they are repeatedly presented with information that challenges their beliefs.
Stage 2
Resistance Stage
acknowledges the advantages they are given and feels shameful and guilty about it. In order to move on from this stage one must do more than wallow or try to reach out to nondominant group members to apologize instead, sharing what they’ve learned with others who share their dominant identity allows them to progress to the next stage.

Stage 3

revise negative views of their identity held in the previous stage and begin to acknowledge their privilege and try to use the power they are granted to work for They realize that they can claim their dominant identity as heterosexual, able-bodied, male, white, and so on, and perform their identity in ways that counter norms.

Stage 5
people can integrate their dominant identity into all aspects of their life, finding opportunity to educate others about privilege while also being a responsive ally to people in nondominant identities.  (becoming a true ally)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Part 8 of 10

How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]

8 Your Classroom Should Be a Safe Space

Have you ever been the only person in the room that looks like you?  Maybe you were the only brown person in a sea of white?  Or maybe you were the only woman surrounded by men?  Do you remember the way it felt to be ogled,  like an animal at the zoo?  It’s not a good feeling and yet we do this to our students. 

I was sitting in a faculty meeting when one of my colleagues was so happy with how they had handled their first ever trans student.  The professor explained, “I got one, they’re trans!”  I was immediately reminded of Donald Trump’s exclamation, “Look at my African American…” at a campaign rally in Redding, California.

During my own education the one day that race would be introduced in lecture all the students and the professor would turn to me for my opinion, as if I had been elected by the black community to represent us in the New Mexico Higher Ed Chapter.
Don’t fall into this trap, if you want to teach about such issues do your own research.  Students regardless of their ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or gender should be treated as all other students, not guest lecturers.  They should be able to sit in your class without being labeled, called out or seen as  token.  They are coming to school for a variety of reasons but none of those include talking about their personal experience. 

I am woman, a mom, a wife, a professor, black, and pan-sexual, I am not an expert on any of those things.  The color of my skin did not give me the knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement or the black experience.  My genitalia did not school me on the gender wage gap or glass ceilings, my experiences or lack thereof did.
Your classroom should be safe, not a place where students go to be labeled and poked and prodded.  They are not on display, your teaching is.  When you, as an instructor, begin to otherize your students, the rest of the class follows suit.  You set the tone for your classroom. 

In each of my classes race, gender, class, sexuality, ableism get discussed as part of our course material.  Because I write my syllabus I know what is coming.  On the second day of class we were discussing emotions towards the end of lecture I saw one of my students whisper to another student and then promptly get up and leave.  The following class I approached the student that had left.  They were defensive at first but when I explained that I was concerned they explained that the lecture had been triggering for them and that when they explained this to the student sitting next to them they had been dismissed with an all too common, “you’ll be alright.” The student explained how they left because they had wanted to punch the other student in the face.  

I’ve never had a fight break out in my classroom however it’s because I stop it before it starts.  When I see agitated students I halt the discussion.  As an instructor you can pull the student out in the hall and speak with them.  Explain that you understand these topics can bring up a lot of feelings, especially since this could be the first time they’ve ever been presented with such concepts.  This can be less traumatic if you make the first in-class discussion a written one, where they can list what they’re feeling.  It doesn’t need to make sense it’s just getting some of this angst on the page rather than in a shouting match in the classroom.  It all goes back to creating a safe place. 

Also never engage an argumentative student with anything other than facts.  I had a student state in class how women are better parents because they are natural nurturers.  My response was, that is a stereotype, and I cited, Daphan Joel a behavioral neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University, who explains there are no differences between brains based solely on gender but societal pressures that force individuals into very exclusive gender roles.  I am happy to say that same student is now understanding how there are different types of women, that we are not simply cut from a stencil and mass distributed ready to receive our orders from a man. 

Be prepared to separate ignorance from hate.  I have very bright students who have just never been asked to challenge themselves.  They have been raised to believe that stereotypes are true and that the world is a great place where everyone is equal and if they struggle it’s because they are lazy.  The first half of the semester is about challenging those assumptions with research and facts, anecdotal evidence and narratives.  There are also the students who are highly educated in prejudice.  They will hear the research but admonish it in order to spread their own intolerant agenda.  The latter need to be addressed with facts immediately, never let your students fall into the trap of listening to refutable falsehoods and adopt it as truth.  Do not let your classroom turn into a platform for hate or a three ringed circus. 

You are in charge of facilitating discussions.  If your group is not ready for class discussions then make the assignment a written one or a info-graphic, protect them from themselves.  If you’re unsure ask yourself; by allowing this student to speak in class, is it admonishing the safe environment that I promised I would provide for students?  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Part 7 of 10

How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]

7 Cognitive dissonance leads to learning

Cognitive dissonance and push back from students means they are listening, so keep going.  The looks on students faces that say, “this doesn’t apply to me,” the eye rolls, the exasperated sighs, the whispered comments of “can you believe this?” to other students - it’s enough to make you either want to sink into the floor or keep going.  I tell you, do the latter.  Do not allow ignorance to arouse your fight or flight response, do not let it oppress you.  In my experience, these are the same students who will surprise you with a moving final presentation advocating for the rights of transgender students but they have to start somewhere. 

When students take issue with what you’re saying be excited they are listening.  When they are annoyed with your stance, be excited that they are in class.  When they fill their papers with stereotypes and negative perceptions of those different from them, say; at least they are self-evaluating.  All of this is necessary.  If we stop having these types of conversations we let the ignorance remain unchallenged, we are allowing a system of hate to continue.  Instead we get them to see it and then walk them through what effect that worldview has on, not only themselves but others. 

When I introduce race I explain how it is not rooted in science there is no evidence that diseases are inherently tied to race, there is no support that shows that these phenotypic differences are linked to our intelligence. In fact I share this with them. I give them the reason why we have been told these untruths about race for our entire lives, it was to preserve a hierarchy.  When I state that race is a social construct I then ask them this simple question, “can people of color be racist?” 

The answers are vary, I’ve been in classrooms where there were high-pitched and adamant yes’s, I’ve also been in rooms where the responses are mixed.  There have also been the classrooms where there was a resounding no. 

The correct answer is no.  People of color cannot be racist.  We can be prejudice, we can discriminate but we do not have the position in society to be racist.  Racism is often confused with prejudice and discrimination but racism is much more calculating than someone hurling a racial slur at their neighbor.  Racism is the system that paved the way for redlining, that kept blacks from voting by developing questions like, “how many bubbles in a bar of soap” before they could register to vote.  Racism is what kept schools separate but equal, when we all know how unequal those schools ultimately were.  Racism is a system, an institution that is held up by the dominant group.  In order for racism to work it needs to be rooted within our society; in our politics and in every other aspect.  Racism is not individual it is institutionalized.  People of color are not allowed in those institutions we do not have the power to keep an entire group of people out of organizations. 

Of course this lecture creates looks of shock and a lot of discomfort because we have never had to think this way.  It is imperative however to include in my lecture about language and perception.  We have often called individuals racist.  We have discussed the US as post racial because of the color of Barack Obama’s skin but it is oh so evident when you understand the history of race and the definition of terms like racism, prejudice and discrimination, how untrue that ideal is. 

Remember this is a process.  This is journey.  This is a challenge but it is necessary.  Cognitive dissonance is the theory that when one of our core beliefs is challenged we are faced with two choices.  One is to either change all of our other points of view to align with this new information or to reject the new information to avoid the discomfort of dissonance that we experience.  When your students are rolling their eyes this is what they are experiencing.  Just keep coming to class, keep teaching your curriculum and know that you are not alone. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Part 6 of 10

How to Teach in Trump’s America [Bringing up Race, Immigration, Sexuality and everything else in Higher Ed]

6 Discussions are great but writing is all encompassing


Earlier I discussed how educators are uncomfortable, just like much of society, guess what?  Our students are part of that same society. They don’t want to talk about this stuff with us.  Sure they see what is happening, of course they are afraid, of course they have questions but they weren’t allowed to do this in public school, they can’t talk about it at home.  So the first couple of times I mention gender inequality my students look at me like, “is she sure?”  Then the next class they are like, “she is seriously going to bring this kind of stuff up every class?”  During those initial weeks, having a discussion is basically unheard of.  I have to really coax them out of their shells and then brace myself for some racist or sexist speech that they truly don’t know are prejudicial.  They think that is how you talk about such issues, that’s all they’ve ever heard.  These polarized rhetorical strategies (surrounding topics like race, gender, and politics) are all many of students have, in the way of dealing with these issues. You have to be very patient and sometimes you just have to have them write. 

Let them write it down so you don’t expose the rest of your students to their personal journey, because they are dealing with their own.  As you introduce more information and show them different ways of understanding, they will get better. 

I love the idea of having them write for multiple reasons; it allows me to subjectively assess my students and it shows me how they are relating to the class.   Writing also allows me to hear from everyone as opposed to just a few of the same brave souls that raise their hand every single time I pose a question.  You know the kind that can really dominate a class discussion but also silence the others?  Writing eliminates that. 

Writing is a great starting point and evaluative tool however one should be careful not to only subject students to this method.  When we remove discussions completely and only allow for written assessments we aren’t growing as a group.  The class remains at an individual level.  Of course there is learning from that perspective but I being in a face to face class allows for students to test out their new education one on one and in a group, why eliminate that step?