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?