The Nervous Instructor

This week’s topic is difficult. I imagine that, inevitably, at some point in our teaching careers we will find some form of discrimination in the classroom. When that time comes, we, as instructors, have an important role to play. The thought makes me nervous – I’m not confrontational by nature, but I know very well that certain situations will require leadership from the instructor. I don’t tolerate discrimination, but would it be too easy to simply kick someone out of class? How can I create a meaningful learning experience out of an unfortunate situation?

I liked what Arao and Clemens1 said – that perhaps what we need are “brave spaces” rather than “safe spaces.” Out of all people in the class, the instructor cannot opt out of difficult conversations no matter how uncomfortable these might be. I would like to set the precedent that social injustice issues hold just as much, if not more importance then the class material itself, and would be willing to dedicate class time to facilitate discussions. I hope to send a message of positivity rather than one of passivity and complicity2.

I think my nervousness largely stems from inexperience – still have much to learn about leadership and handling difficult situations. What are some of your unfortunate classroom experiences dealing with discrimination? How did you handle them?

[1] Arao, B. and Clemens, K. (2013). “From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces a New Way to Frame Dialogue around Diversity and Social Justice.” The Art of Effective Facilitation. 135-150.

[2] The Heinemann Podcast: “Dismantling Racism in Education”