Ever notice how synchronicity and connections occur when we’re open to them? I was lucky to have such a moment last semester. After a seminar conversation last fall on inclusive pedagogy and diversity, an undergraduate came in to grab some late evening study time in the GEDI seminar room as I was packing up. I heard what sounded like a spoken word performance emanating from his laptop. He looked up and asked if he was bothering me and I said not at all. I asked him if that was a recording of him doing spoken word. He said no, but wished he could make a powerful impact on people like spoken word poet and activist Shane Koyzcan does. He struck up a conversation with me about Shane Koyzcan and and hit replay on the YouTube video. I asked him to send me the link and he did. So, thank you, Nathan Chung, for crossing paths with me on that Wednesday evening last fall and sharing, and making a powerful impact by doing so. If you haven’t watched this before, Koyzcan brings the pain of being marginalized and misunderstood to all of our attention in his “To This Day Project.”
One aspect of our focus on inclusive pedagogy is to provide a welcoming learning environment and to find ways to model inclusive engagement in the learning communities we create with our students. Most of the time we hope this happens of its own accord, but I’d suggest to you that we need to be actively involved in the process. Our pedagogical praxis should focus on how we can encourage learners to choose to be their ‘best selves’ for their own learning and in their interactions with peer colleagues. Learning can be uncomfortable at moments, and learning that changes our world view, that has us examining new ideas, new data, new discoveries that shift our understanding of the world around us—those are powerful moments, and sometimes they are powerfully unsettling moments. . .at least initially. Those are the times when out of fear and insecurity and discomfort around change, our ‘lizard brain’ may kick in, and we attempt to make ourselves feel better/bigger/stronger by picking on someone who appears vulnerable. You may have witnessed, or even experienced, behavior inside and outside of higher ed. Bullying doesn’t just occur in K-12; we have bullying and emotional hazing going on in our university classrooms as well. Should we think that ‘victims’ oughta just toughen up, we may want to remember that affective and intellectual connection go hand-in-hand. This is not about rigidly prescriptive politically correct behavior. It is about being human and kind.
We are all weird, as Seth Godin declares. Indeed! Small amygdalas should not and shall not rule. Celebrate weirdness–yours and others’.