Something that I’ve found interesting is thinking about how common or popular techniques in academia can be applied to anti-racist pedagogy. In particular, I did this a few months ago when I talked about doing anti-racism work the SMART way. More recently, I read James Lang’s book Small Teaching.
While I found the book generally helpful and well-written, I found myself asking how could small teaching contribute to anti-racist pedagogy?
Every instructor, at one point or another, is faced with deciding how to deal with difficult subject matter and moments in the classroom. Ideally, such decisions should be made before anything difficult comes up, but often this is not the case.
For some, dealing with difficult topics and moments – including racism – in the classroom can seem like a Herculean task. Being expected to know when and how to intervene in such situations is a lot of pressure, especially when you’re faced with them for the first time. Plus, it can be emotionally and mentally draining for both you and your students, depending on your positionality in relation to the topic.
So, it should come as no surprise that often, when we’re asked to make changes to the way we teach, we don’t follow through. We are turned off by the idea of some great upheaval in the way we’ve always done things because it seems like such an onerous, time- and energy-consuming task.
I can guarantee that this is one of the driving factors in many instructors’ hesitation to actively reflect and adapt in the face of recent calls for more anti-racist curricula.
If there’s anything you know about me, it’s that I’m always thinking about teaching. It’s a wonder that this entire blog isn’t dedicated to the subject.
But since it’s August (!) and a new school year is suddenly right around the corner (!!) I figured now was the perfect time to share some thoughts about teaching.
Over the last year there have been tons of resources created and shared relating to pedagogy, including this recent workshop organized by the Women’s Classical Caucus. Many of these aimed to remedy the fact that pedagogical training is severely lacking in Classics, and provide support to instructors at all levels and stages in their teaching careers.
What all of these workshops and resources have taught me, at least, is just how much I was missing when I first started teaching. Here are just a few things I wish I’d known way back then.
This morning I participated in a plenary session for a workshop on anti-racist and decolonial curricula in archaeology hosted by the Columbia Center for Archaeology. In my talk, I framed the topic of anti-racist curricula in terms of mentorship, and the ways in which good mentorship could help alleviate the pressures placed on first-gen, marginalized, and underrepresented students in Classical Studies and archaeology by the hidden curriculum.
The Hidden Curriculum
The hidden curriculum is a set of skills or norms that individuals are expected to know, particularly in academia, without being formally taught them.
On this blog, I have taken a particular interest in the hidden curriculum, and have made several blog posts illuminating different aspects of it.
Skills and norms which are part of the hidden curriculum include:
What to wear and how to act when attending a conference
How to interview for a (usually academic) job
These range from seemingly simple skills to more complex ones. However, our assumptions about individuals’ knowledge of these skills and norms disproportionately harm students from marginalized backgrounds. These students feel they must put in twice the work to keep up with their peers.
Here are some ways that we can better support students throughout their academic careers.
As we all settle back into our routines and Winter terms begin in earnest, I figured it was a good time to revisit the anti-racism work that (hopefully) began in many departments and institutions last year.
If you made meaningful progress toward creating an inclusive, anti-racist environment for your BIPOC students and colleagues, that’s great. But the work isn’t done.
Anti-racism work isn’t a box you can just check before getting on with your life. Racism isn’t something that can be eliminated overnight, or with a change in administration (Bye, Don!). So, if you’re in the habit of making New Year’s resolutions, here are a few things that you can do this year to continue your anti-racism work.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have even considered guest lecturing. Or maybe, more accurately, two years ago, since a year ago I was presenting a paper at a conference in Prague.
I’ve never been especially charismatic. On most occasions it takes someone else initiating conversation for me to work up the courage to speak.
Even after years of practice, when I teach I always write out notes just in case I forget something. I’m always shocked when I find out that a colleague just “wings it” – no notes, not even a Powerpoint to illustrate their points.
So you might be wondering how I found myself guest lecturing not once, but five times in the course of the last term. Well, we have to thank COVID-19.
Can you believe it’s done something good?
The pandemic led to more virtual events than I can count and more time connecting with like-minded individuals online than ever before. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have been considered a viable candidate for guest lecturing.
Heck, I didn’t even think of myself as a viable candidate when the instructors reached out to me. Imposter syndrome hit me and I’d question whether I had anything to contribute to people who had more experience than me in the field.
I’m just a graduate student after all.
While the fact that I am a graduate student is technically true, what isn’t true is that I wasn’t cut out for guest lecturing. I did have something to contribute. This was the first thing that I learned from my experience.