Be Intersectional
Kellen

To start, Dr. Woods outlined five pillars that must absolutely structure our course design and interactions with students. I feel pretty confident in floating the hypothesis that none of disagree that we need to be intrusive, relational, relevant, community centric, and race conscious. However, after watching the video and reading the “NCTE Principles for Online Writing Instruction,” I feel like a sixth pillar is needed: be intersectional. As feminists, queer theorists, and Black studies scholars have stated, “intersectionality” refers to the idea that we need to attend to the multiple, intersectioning dimensions of a person’s identity (i.e. gender, class, race, sexuality, religious identity, ethnicity, etc.). As this post unfolds, I’m gonna use just a few of Dr. Woods’s pillars to imagine strategies that push us to be intersectional—at least I hope.

Be Relevant:

When discussing course texts, Woods implores us to make them inclusive of students of color. Every syllabus needs to have Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous writers that are integrated throughout the course rather than segregated to specific sections. This is, of course, a substantive issue that we must to tackle in the early stages of conceiving our OWCourse. However, I think there are some important day-to-day ways that I will take to ensure that I remain culturally relevant.

  1. Proactively Countering Deficit Messages: As Woods suggests, we need to actively push against negative stereotypes that our students encounter. However, as we do this, I need to be sure to think about how these messages differ according to race, class, gender, sexuality, immigration status, age, ability, etc. As we select course texts and images, we must think about the broad range of student identities. Can our course be truly relevant if there are no texts by ciswomen? What if there are no texts by queer authors? What about writers from the working class? If we have gaps in our syllabus, how do we turn these into teachable moments?
  2. Proactively Developing Writing Methods: I think we need to develop assignments and strategies that encourage students to think critically about Standard American English (SAE) AND NON-Standard forms of American English. As we include pieces of writing from various backgrounds, we notice that the grammar, syntax, mechanics, organization, and evidence can change in small and large ways (Borderlands/La Frontera, for example). As we incorporate more perspectives, we need to develop strategies for making our modes of evaluation relevant and responsive while still preparing students to write SAE. What might assignments that critically analyze alternative grammatical forms look like? How might we develop alternative rubrics for various styles of English? What do those look like? How could we get students involved in that process to teach them about the variety and values of English comp?

 

Be Community Centric:

Woods suggests a few strategies for developing a sense of community in our online courses. These range from making introduction forums to sharing reflection essays/videos. Are there ways that we can make these practices self-reflexively intersectional? When thinking about potential answers to this, I recalled an idea proposed by a friend who studies digital media (and something that reminds me very much of Karla’s fantastic post from two weeks ago):

  1. Introductory Tumblrs (or Instagram) Mirror Assignments: To start the class, I will ask all my students to create and curate a Tumblr page that will give the entire class an idea of who they are. They will need to choose a theme. They will need to find and share images that they like or think are interesting. With these images, they will need to write captions that explain why they chose what they chose and create hash-tags to link them to other conversations. I’ll probably get into some pretty heavy restrictions too (ya know, be respectful/appropriate kinda stuff). But I hope this project can teach students about how we carefully and consciously craft digital personalities that respond to various parts of our identity, even when we might just think that we are sharing a meme. I hope this kind of assignment would be a low-stakes and playful way to introduce mirror assignments—assignments where students are asked to reflect critically on their own self.

 

Be Race Conscious:

Representation matters. Woods rightly implores us to embrace race discourse (Black minds matter) and to address microaggressions seriously and immediately. Additionally, we need to ensure that our stock images are racially sensitive and diverse. 100% agree. I think we need to go even farther though to be not only race conscious but gender conscious, sexuality conscious, class conscious and then think about how these different identities link up in an online format.

  1. Monitoring Microaggressions Online: How do we most monitor for microaggressions related to race and to gender? In my f2f course, I have been conscious of making sure that my women students and students of color get to speak in class, that they are not interrupted, and that their perspectives are heard. I challenge myself to ensure that I have gender parity in my course readings and am working to have better racial representation as well. While I’m pretty attentive to gender dynamics IRL, I have to wonder how these might manifest in online formats. Are these issues that are diminished or exacerbated by an online format? How do we ensure that students engage equally with posts by women? How do we ensure that our diction does not cross the line into hostility? How do we ensure that we don’t erase students who do not subscribe to the gender binary? How do we ensure that we don’t erase trans students without forcing them to out themselves?
  2. Analyze EVERYTHING: When selecting “stock” images for our course, I think we might consider how to turn every image into a teachable moment. I’ve been trying to put this into practice more and more in my class as students become increasingly comfortable calling out the gaps in cultural representation. This has been an expected problem this unit, which focuses on children’s toy advertisement (which are disproportionately feature white kids). Because of that, I’ve been working on developing ways of turning gaps into productive moments of teaching that I think lend themselves to online formats!
    1. Follow up example: In my comp class, we talk about race and Barbie (a lot). We discuss the traditional gendered, classed, and racial dimensions of Barbie and how they erase particular groups of people. In particular, we think about the exclusion or Black dolls. However, this semester, students also began pushing on the absence of Asian, Latina, and Native American dolls. In migrating this course, I feel like this assignment could lend itself to having students think about the intersection of race and gender. Students would find an example of a doll and discuss how its representations of femininity are influenced by race (or vice versa). Students will write up their responses and share them with the class to see the variability in answers (especially if they do Ken dolls). By doing assignments like this, I hope to teach students to identify gaps and absence and to think about what those gaps might signify.

 

 

Be Intersectional.

            I feel like I’m rambling so I’m gonna wind down. In the end, intersectionality, taking a kaleidoscopic inventory of a student, is an unacknowledged sixth pillar that must necessarily inform our approach to online course design.