Sawubona (I See You) – Decolonizing Research Methods and Practices

Inspired by the Zulu greeting, Sawubona (I see you), and this week’s Black Lives Matter Training by awesome professors Bruce Hoskins, Shawntae Mitchum, and Edwina Williams, I have been reflecting on what I’ve done and what more I can do to make research projects more inclusive of diverse epistemologies, voices, and histories. Check out my video for more, and please let me know if you have recommendations or want to share any of your research practices, especially in online classes. Thanks!

Imposter Syndrome and Affective Care

Last week, for our CSP Reading Group, JahB selected an episode from (Re)Teach, a podcast written, produced, and hosted by our very own Dr. Bruce Hoskins. If you weren’t able to listen and join in on the conversation last week, I encourage you to check out this episode before our fall semester starts. The focus of the episode is imposter syndrome and how it impacts our students. Bruce discusses imposter syndrome with two MiraCosta students–Susy and Melissa–who each share their imposter syndrome stories and experiences. Here is the episode link and you can also find (Re)Teach on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, etc.
If you’re anything like me, imposter syndrome is a very real, very challenging issue. If you have not experienced imposter syndrome yourself, trust me when I tell you that many if not most of our students are probably feeling it when they sit in our classes. I think all of us probably feel some level of imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. For some of us, though, it can be chronic and even debilitating. Operating from a place of fear can be motivating, as I’m sure we can witness in ourselves and our students, but it is also tremendously exhausting and demoralizing. When we aren’t able to channel our fears into motivation, we get all up in our amygdala by fighting, flying, and freezing. My wife, a certified emotional intelligence counselor, says this is called the “Amygdala Hijack.” Fear overwhelms us and causes us to react in ways that might seem like strange behaviors. Often, we’re doing less fighting and more flying/freezing. When we fly, that is when we don’t show up the second week of class. When we freeze is when we don’t turn in an essay even though we got an A on the last one. When we fly, we might “ghost” you over email (this, right here, is a big one). When we freeze, we might seem fine even though we’re so tired we fall asleep in class. When we freeze, we sure as hell aren’t talking in the class (or a meeting) even if we enjoy the subject. When we fight, we might get mad about an activity. We fight by refusing to do something that might seem like a simple assignment/prompt/activity to the teacher. We’re not mad, we’re running, hiding, and yelling because we’re operating from a place of fear.
This fear has it’s roots in feeling like we don’t belong and constantly worrying that what we’ve earned, what we worked for, will be taken away eventually. Surely the application committee, the hiring committee, that interviewer, made a mistake. They’ll call any minute to say “oops, wait, actually, there’s an issue with your application.” Or, more to the point for classroom faculty, “If I answer this question, if I’m honest, they’ll know right away that I don’t really belong here.”
As I said, anyone can fall victim to imposter syndrome. But it absolutely is more likely to occur in students who come from historically marginalized backgrounds or backgrounds that don’t have a lengthy history of earning higher education degrees. Obviously, we teach in an institution where our students have a high likelihood of having imposter syndrome. From my own experience, you might be more likely to see imposter syndrome manifest in students who are preparing to transfer to a 4-year school or students who are starting to apply for scholarships, internships, summer programs, or anything else that might feel like a “reach” (even if we know somewhere that isn’t in our amygdala that we are capable).
For about the last 10 minutes of the podcast, Bruce asks the students “what would you want your teachers to know” to help first gen, historically marginalized students deal with imposter syndrome. We get a chance to hear directly from students what small changes would make them feel more comfortable in our classes and ultimately more comfortable in school. You have to listen to see what they say, no spoilers here. Just from anecdotal evidence, though, I feel pretty confident that a lot of us tend to the affective side of our students’ lives. As we head into the fall, I encourage you to spend even more time on activities and conversations geared towards making students feel welcomed, seen, and invited in to your class, especially early in the semester. I know personally that a lot of the affective care that I give to my students often happens in little conversational tangents while teaching or during a mini-lecture or even just chatting before/after class. It is organic, fluid, unplanned, and frequent. When these spaces are all of a sudden missing or at least significantly changed as a result of distance education, we have to be more intentional in how we make affective interjections. We’ve already seen some excellent examples on this very blog from Mary, Chad, Jade, Curry, Tony, and Jim. All I ask is that you be intentional and don’t take it for granted that your students will eventually feel comfortable. They are in a new (digital) environment, a new social/intellectual space, and for some of them, they are absolutely, 100% going to be all up in their amygdala.

Thinking through Course Design

Still thinking about your course design? Modules? Pages? Discussion Boards? Studio? Quizzes? In this video, I explain and show how I designed my course and the reasons for doing it. Come in and take a look! I hope this helps you think about how Course Design is much more than just how your course “looks” but how it actually engages students.

Create a Reading Journal in Canvas

In my English composition classes, I really, really hope to promote reading as an essential step in the writing process. Since I started teaching, I’ve relied on low-stakes writing assignments–journaling, in-class writing, annotations, etc–to promote mindful reading habits linked to larger writerly tasks. When I started teaching online, I simply adopted a digital journal inside the LMS, that is, until we switched to Canvas, which does not have a journal tool. Time once again to bend Canvas to my pedagogical will.

In this video I share two approaches that provide students with a space to explore texts and experiment with ways to value the act of reading; space that also provides me an opportunity to intervene, celebrate, and nudge students as their develop their own unique reading process.

Here’s a guide for how to highjack Canvas’ Discussion tool to create a reading journal:

1. Navigate to the People tab and create a new Group Set

2. Title the Group Set, select the “I’ll create groups manually option,” and click Save.

3. Find the tab for the group you just created and then click the +Group button. Create a group for every student in your course. Once you have a group for each student, drag their name into their group. This may take a little while…

When your students log in, they will see they have access to a link under Course Groups. When they click on this link, they will have access to their own space in your Canvas course where they can upload files, create pages, etc.

Here’s what that looks like on a desktop

Here’s the view using Canvas’ mobile app

I find it a little hard to find everything students include in this space, so to make things a little more simple, I create a Discussion board and set it up as a group assignment.

I place the link to this discussion on the home page, and when students click into the discussion, they only have access to their own contributions.

Once they access the Discussion link, they simply click the “Reply” button and add their latest journal notes and reflections. This space becomes a repository for their ideas throughout the semester. Check out minute 2:06 in the video above for what this journal-discussion-Canvas-thing looks like for students.

UBSC and OTC Highlights

Happy Juneteenth, Letters community!

Since my last post, have you checked out our Letters Department Online Teaching site? There, you’ll find our department’s principles for online teaching, as well as a wealth of resources, including the Writing with Machines blog where you can find the following info and so many more of our colleagues’ great pieces to inspire your online pedagogy and practice. 

This week, I’m bringing you Letters-relevant realness from our 10th annual United Black Student Conference (UBSC) and the California Community College’s Online Teaching Conference (OTC).

Adventure #1: Cooler than Radio

If you’re looking for a holistic centering of equity and empathy in your class, the OTC’s panel on “Becoming a Warm Demander” referenced Zaretta Hammond’s podcast that defines culturally responsive pedagogy as it is evolving into instructional equity. In it, Hammond calls us to question, “How are we making sure that all students, particularly the most vulnerable, historically marginalized kids, get the most powerful teaching that helps grow their brainpower, so not just the content […] I mean, the teaching to move through the content.”

Adventure #2: Love a Nerd, Be a Nerd

If you’re looking for readings or multimedia that introduce students to stereotype-breaking works created by self-identified Black Nerds, dabble in these works shared by Student Equity’s JD Banks’ UBSC presentation titled  “Black Nerds are more than Black Hobbyists.”

Adventure #3: “That’s what I look like? Where’re the filters?”

So, you want to create your own content for your classes? I just got hip (a phrase that shows how painfully unhip I am) to an app called “Clips,” which allows you to record and edit videos with live captioning–a major plus for keeping your online classes accessible! This would be a useful app if you’re having students create videos for discussion boards or assignments too. 

Adventure #4: Peace through Poetry

If you’re working on revising or creating new writing assignments, turn to Soultry Sisters, a North County-based empowerment collective for women of color. During their Juneteenth UBSC presentation, the Soultry Sisters presented creative writing as a method of healing soul care to embrace, embody, and empower. Featuring the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou, the Soultry Sisters’ workbook leads our students–and ourselves–through self-caring reading and writing process. 

****Note that the last two pages of the workbook indexes community resources such as Black-owned businesses, educational organizations, and healers. How might you work these community partners into a Service Learning project? Or a reflective writing assignment that centers students’ self-care? Or just as an extension of the MCC family that takes care of our students?

Finally, one of the OTC panels briefly mentioned the Open Pedagogy Notebook. Click on “Examples” for great–you guessed it–examples of every aspect of an open classroom, from student-generated syllabi to activist zines, the latter of which I have witnessed to be beautifully, powerfully incorporated into curriculum by our fearless leader Maria Figueroa. 

Until next time, enjoy a safe and healthy summer with your loved ones!

Your interim Technology Coordinator,

Jade Hidle

PROJECT Online Teaching Institute Highlights

Hello, Letters colleagues!

I’d like to introduce myself as curry’s humble substitute for our department’s Technology Coordinator as he goes on sabbatical for the fall. If you’re like me, you’re spending a lot of your summer prepping for an online fall semester in our COVID-19 world, so I wanted to reach out to you now with some Letters-relevant highlights from this week’s PROJECT Online Teaching Institute. You can self-enroll in the PROJECT Canvas course for extensive resources, including recordings of all the Zoom sessions. 

The worldwide protests seeking justice in the names of George Floyd and countless other people of color have no doubt been at the forefront of our hearts and minds, and this ongoing conversation will inevitably enrich what, how, and why we teach. In that spirit, social justice, equity, and our community college system-wide call to action were the center of PROJECT’s institute. 

As Ibram X. Kendi writes in How to Be An Antiracist,  “What we say about race, what we do about race, in each moment, determines what–not who–we are. […] [B]eing an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination” (10, 23). 

So let’s get to work.

If you learn best through audio/video, enjoy my quarantine hair in this recap. If you’re a reader and hyperlink clicker, keep reading!

Choose the adventure that meets you where you’re at:

  • If you’re still feeling fledgling in online education and issues of equity, start by exploring…
    • Unit 0 in PROJECT’s Canvas course for the basics of online instruction. For composition instructors in particular, the embedded videos about Zoom annotations are useful for critical reading exercises and peer review activities, and the breakout rooms are also great for group discussions and activities.
  • How the institute suspended synchronous sessions on June 10th to demonstrate solidarity with the #shutdownacademia movement. Click the hashtag for necessary reading. 
  • If you’re already writing/revising syllabi and assignments centered on social justice and equity, work with…
    • Five Tips for Equitable Syllabus (Unit 1.B4 in the Canvas course)
  • Religious Studies colleague Chase Way’s talk on active learning strategies in the context of social justice and equity, inspired by the work of Paulo Freire and Civil Rights activist Septima Clark, both of whom championed treating students with love and support so they could see themselves as capable. Chase provides concrete examples of how to design discussion boards, quizzes embedded within Canvas Studio videos, Work-Based Learning assignments, and ePortfolios.  

Lastly, check out our Letters Department online resources page that will go live on Monday, the 15th. Here, you will find tons of resources to help you (re)shape your online courses to best support our wonderful students through these challenging times. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions:

In solidarity,

Jade Hidle

Culturally Relevant Group Discussions with Google Docs and Zoom Breakout Rooms


Inspired by the activism in the worldwide George Floyd protests, I used an image from the peaceful demonstrations as a culturally relevant text for students to practice critical reading skills. In this short video, I’ll show you how I use Google docs and Zoom breakout rooms to create a collaborative communication, reading, and writing group activity centered on a culturally relevant text. I’ve found that this strategy gets all students involved and creates a useful scaffolding exercise/document for bigger papers and projects.

First Impressions and Setting Students Up for Success

In this series of vids, I provide an overview of how I will share resources with you all and then move into into some early communication with students to help them access Canvas and our course successfully.

In this video, I share my initial email communication with students and preview three student videos that are sent pre-semester to welcome, engage, and connect with students.

Here is a link to the video I send to students in the pre-semester email which guides them to logging on the Canvas and provides a basic overview of our course design/layout. 

This is the video which provides some tips and guidance once students are in our Canvas Course how to approach the content for each week and navigate the course more easily.

Finally, this is a video that shows students how to use some of the most basic but useful tools when viewing Studio videos.