This week i taught my first class for the semester. i’m totally psyched. i’ve been refining the package i’ve created since 2006 and each year i teach in with less self-consciousness and more spontaneity. i get to do things other lecturers may not.
I ask students to introduce themselves to each other, look each other in the eye, value those next to them. remind them that they are one moment in a movement decades old and with decades to go, and that the goal is for all to succeed, collectively. encourage them to look around the auditorium and question how the room’s and rows’ very structure creates student passivity, militaristic and hierarchical discipline, and investment in my authority over theirs just through its hidden curriculum
affirm that, yes, we are here for debate and drama and passion and politics, but also to respect differences across ethnicity, class, gender, age and and sexuality. if people are not straight, they should feel as safe as the rest of us want to be. I share my own excitement that learning must be an adventure, full of challenges and trails, untrodden paths and unexpected turns, and all you need is to keep your eyes, mind and heart open.
I confirm that, yes, we are here to do feminist theory, unafraid and unapologetically.
and i empathize, sorry, but indeed you will have to take collective action because we are going to do this together or not at all. and i love encouraging them to feel. forget the fact that you are mostly taught to pass exams, we want your emotions and experience in the mix too. i want them to walk out at the end critical, caring, inspired and inspiring, because knowledge can in fact change the world.
i tell them i learn from them as well in case they don’t hear it enough. i let them know i have high expectations for them all, borne out of actual love.
this class is my space for building an army of feminist women and men each year, and so far more than 400 folks have spent 12 weeks such as this with me. i’m in awe that they come despite all the messages the world gives them that deny us our validity.
when i first decided i was going to build this class into a mass movement, i was more focused on expanding enrollment. if they are going to say there is no feminist movement, i thought, when i’m done, they are going to know we are here – in our numbers. after four years of active assertive advertising and recruiting, i’m on the other side of the numbers game. and i’m looking twice at the gains.
the students that i developed the strongest relationships with, the ones i know are out there doing rich and radical things, the ones who i can call on for culture jams or who i can close my eyes and have teach with me – nicole, steph, mich, renee, renelle, samantha and others – came before we capped at 100. since then, i feel i’ve hardly gotten to know most my students the same way, i don’t remember them by name, i don’t know their families and stories. and i think i’ve learned how much i first need to build the personal for the political to follow. i know there are students out there whose lives were changed by the feminist scholarship we teach, but i wish we’d also become and remained comrades and co-conspirators and friends.
so, this year i’m trying a new method. created a space and time when students can come to eat, lime, talk, share, suggest, write, read and organise. i’m looking forward most of all to getting to know those who come as full persons, not just as students. i’m looking forward to developing relationships, not just reading papers.
amongst the thousand other reasons why a revolution is a way of life. this is one. because reflection and transformation are everyday steps small and large. revolution is both in the readings and in the relationships, in questioning methods and devising new ones, in relating the personal and political back and forth with each other. its in coming to better and better understand that what i tell students about valuing each other, looking each other in the eye, moving forward collectively, bringing in feelings, and refining how we live, teach, define, make and share social change are all things i have to enact and live in my life too. sometimes i think that each year i learn more than they do.
i dont get to do the activist work i wish i had time for, but i keep an eye on the prize of making a better world. this semester is another chance to practice and grow. at the heart of revolution is indeed life long learning. i’m up for the challenge and ready to go.