I’ve been heartsick for years. I mean, it’s always sickening to consider the ways oppression and injustice runs throughout our judicial, education, and social systems in pernicious ways. But since the death of Mike Brown, a knot has settled under my sternum. I’ve long advocated for equality, and even as an undergraduate, I knew we needed to do more to redress inequalities. I directed For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow was Enuf, as a first step. Working with this amazing text and the amazing women you see below, opened my heart and eyes and broke me. And I have continued to study the effects of rhetorics of oppression in the fields of technical communication and composition. So…maybe this heartsick thing is nothing new. But it feels new.

For Colored Girls, 2002

For Colored Girls, 2002

It’s not like I suddenly started caring about issues of oppression, but since August 2014, it’s been rough. I write about this as an academic and read about it more–that’s good practice for a junior scholar, I think. But recently, I can see that so many or at a loss for practical approaches to integrating change-making into the classroom. So, tentatively, I make these suggestions:

  • Scour the sample studies, cases, and vignettes you use in your classroom. If they don’t sound diverse, do that. If your list of names looks like the line up from an all-white, all-male corporate function [David, John, George, Timothy, and Harold, for example], change it. Try: Maria, Juan, Jason, Jamal, Isla, etc. Paint a diverse cast for your classroom. I was a the¬†Institute for Inclusive Excellence, and one of the speakers cited a study–which I’ve been searching and searching for–that says even this helps to defy stereotypes: non-whites, non-males exist in the world and they exist in our classrooms when we put them in our sample problems and cases.
  • Take attendance through a “word of the day” that draws on current events or important historical facts/events. It takes 2 minutes to have students sign in and submit a word of the day–I did this to solve the problem of electronic attendance taking, but it works just as well with physical sign in sheets. Words of the Day I’ve used:
    • Cultural Appropriation
    • Manifest Destiny (Or stealing)
    • Transphobia
    • Misogyny
    • Accidental Racism
    • Gerrymandering
    • DWB
    • Supreme Court Justices: A Line Up

I don’t always use these kinds of culturally loaded and powerful terms. But I do sometimes. I also assign students to bring in words of the day that they don’ t know or understand, often from the local or current news.

  • If you teach writing, teach through texts that raise critical questions about race, gender, sexuality, etc. Replace your John Dewey with other texts that introduce new perspectives. Recently, I’ve been using: the Ferguson Syllabus, Dworkin’s I Want A 24 Hour Period where there is No Rape, Black Girl Dangerous, Amy Schumer’s Friday Night Lights Parody, Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies. But, of course, there are others. Share in the comments.
  • Teach intercultural communication as a local phenomenon and assign students to explore places they’ve never been, where they know no one. I have this assignment if you want it. Feel free to email me k.moore [at] ttu [dot] edu.

There are more. But the first two are surprisingly easy. The other two take more work and thought, but where we have power, we can and should use that power¬†to make some kind of change. If you’d like to talk about how to make changes in your classroom, I don’t have all the answers, but I will make time to talk to you, to think with you, to brainstorm, and to plan. Just email. Or, drop in to my online office hours on Skype [krm1881]. Or, join one of WomeninTechComm’s teaching talks.

This is just a start. But we have to begin somewhere.