Context of the semester:
They were my third class in a series of 3 consecutive classes, 2 of which were weekly meetings. I sometimes found myself asking one of my t.a’s to engage in emotional labor by getting me water (I teach in the desert), and a couple of times, low blood sugar because I forgot my lunch meant I was a little loopy. I had to often, chug one of the water bottles because my throat was parched from hours of lecturing. I also had class 10 minutes away and often found myself ‘fashionably’ late. In other words, students had a 10 minute grace, which they very much appreciated.
I was, very often, the last one in the room those first few weeks. I mastered the schedule and the transition by the twelfth week.
I>clicker is a completely different conversation.
Working without a microphone:
I had gotten the key. I had even been shown how to use it. The first day, without fail, it didn’t work. So I didn’t use it. Years of reading/performing poetry/spoken word on stage, on top of months of shouting at protests and mobilizations, my voice could carry. And it did. I danced, I used ‘tude, I warned them of ‘the look.’ I woke them up if I caught them snoozing. I threatened to answer the phone. Only near the end did I use video because, dammit, I was going to learn how to lecture.
But I didn’t.
Dialectic in preference and in training, I wanted to know what they were thinking of what we were reading, of the themes discussed and how they connected. I spoke 100+ words a minute and I warned them to slow me down if I was getting too excited. With traditional classrooms, I rely heavily on the small group discussion, having group leaders write notes on the board and then writing questions in response that they then either verbally answered or returned to the board to answer.
I had a dozen or so consistent responders. I began challenging the quiet ones until they spoke of their fear to speak, their fear of racialized accents and of going too much against my grain. Near the end, recovering from Election Day, from the first full time teaching job I’d ever had, I showed a video; I organized exam reviews. On the last day, flying to my sister’s graduation that night, I ended class early.
Where passion makes sense
I took time in class to explain why, as a woman of color , they needed to call me ‘doctor’ or ‘professor.’ It, for the most part, worked. I brought McNair to them; I offered, as an alum, to be a reference.
They were building community before my very eyes. They lingered after class, at times for hours. Walking into the class was like walking into my living room, talking about what I love to old friends.
Looking forward to next semester’s adventures.