Monday, May 25, 2015

Institute on Inclusive Teaching: Quick Notes

[Related blogposts: 2014 Reflections on the Institute on Inclusive Teaching;
There's a Place for Us; EdContexts full version]

Major Ideas from Institute that Resonated with Me.
Major Ideas from Institute that Resonated with Me.

Last year, it took me a couple of weeks to distill my thoughts into a blogpost. This image captures some of the ideas I'm mulling over.

Structural Poverty.

We meet again
Through veiled window glass frosted by body heat
Rain pelted outside and within
Wetting my white linen and polka-dotted leggings
My guilt and helplessness remained
What is going through Jolene's mind
Rain, like a windscreen-wiper, will it flick away the torrent of injustice 

The Richmond Hill experience remained a memorable experience for participants. Structural poverty brought about by policies or the lack of them, stares at one in the eye, in significant pockets of Richmond, Virginia (RVA).

I stumbled upon this tweet on President Rao's twitter stream which helps illustrate this concept of structural poverty in RVA:

"One's experience of traumatizing awareness should not paralyze us into inaction."

True. But what can we do?

"Change what you can change."

And so we push on, for the third year now, to raise awareness and reach out to faculty about various issues of inclusivity in VCU. Our definition of inclusivity is:

Moving towards inclusivity includes an intention of reflecting on ideas and assumptions, and becoming aware of differences in order to gain insight and transform our practices.

We hope that participants will begin the journey of transforming their teaching practices with the ideas they have gathered from this week's learning.

Inclusive teaching can thus be viewed as encompassing issues of access to educational opportunities; student involvement in academic work as well as personal and professional growth; student retention and success; and classroom and institutional climate.

Punitive Justice vs. Unitive Justice (Restorative Justice). 

Fodder for most lawyers. Not for Sylvia Clute, who calls herself a "recovering attorney." Why? In her own words:

Being able to distinguish between punitive and unitive justice clears up a lot of the confusion. When we understand this distinction, our world of greed, violence and war in the midst of breathtaking acts of love, kindness and generosity makes perfect sense.  When we analyze the two systems, we discover that punitive justice reflects a dualistic way of thinking that makes the "us versus them" dichotomy seem reasonable. Unitive justice recognizes the interconnectedness of all that is - that what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  
Sylvia Clute works with schools and organizations in Richmond to facilitate restorative circles and teach conflict mediation classes. She has published a few books, one of which is Beyond vengeance, beyond duality: A call for a compassionate revolution. Ready for a paradigm shift? It's time.

Dignity of Risk.

One of the most beautiful phrases I've heard the entire week. Supposedly, this phrase was coined in the 1970s regarding the subject of care for people with disabilities. I could see this applied in educational contexts. Allow students the liberty to try things for themselves, first. Don't try to coddle them. Of course, we don't like to see them get hurt and that's where the discernment of the teacher is welcomed. I see this as an area of struggle for teachers as we move towards open pedagogy. We are fearful. We are anxious. We worry that they might get bullied, hurt, write or say the wrong things that backfire and brand them for life; leaving digital footprints that might ruin their future prospects. Remember, we are the guide on the side, and we are there for them, consistently.

Food Shock. 

It has been some 15 years for me since I first set foot in America. I don't recall if I had any food shock. It was more of a loss to not be able to taste our delicate and fine Singapore cuisine again. After all, we are a Food Paradise. The portion sizes, American Chinese food and different smells and tastes made me crave Singapore food intensely. After 15 years, I still miss the fine dining outlets in Singapore and the ability to meet friends and dine late into the night with them.  The international students who visited us at the Institute shared many significant vignettes from their perspectives. I could identify with most of them. Many participants were struck by a point raised by an international graduate student. That we should not confuse "competence" with "confidence." Boldness (maybe loudness?) in speaking up should not be confused with greater competence. It seemed revelatory to many of the non-international participants. This is good. Let the shift begin.

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