You Are Only One Person
and you are not alone.
It is important to remember that multiple courses, and the learning that takes place within them, add up to a person’s education. You are not responsible for the entirety of your students’ education, but just for your course(s). Let go of the idea that you have to accomplish everything in your class. Your class is just one piece of a much larger whole. And while your class is just a small piece of a student’s education, it does relate to the whole.
According to Adrienne Maree Brown (2017), in her book Emergent Strategy that she wrote for “people who want to radically change the world,”
The crisis is everywhere, massive massive massive.
And we are small.
But emergence notices the way small actions and connections create complex systems, patterns that become ecosystems and societies…In the framework of emergence, the whole is a mirror of the parts. Existence is fractal—the health of the cell is the health of the species and the planet. (p. 3)
And while Brown’s book is not specifically about teaching, we believe the strategy has much to offer in this moment as we plan for our courses. According to her framework,
Small is good, small is all. (The large is a reflection of the small.)
Change is constant. (Be like water).
There is always enough time for the right work.
There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.
Never a failure, always a lesson.
Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy).
Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass—build the resilience by building the relationships.
Less prep, more presence.
What you pay attention to grows. (pp. 41-42)
Thus, by focusing on the smallness of your class(es) and their larger purpose this year, you have the opportunity to contribute to much larger change, both within education and beyond.
- Anzaldúa, G. (2005). One Wound for Another/Una herida por otra. One Wound for Another/Una herida por otra, 92-102.
- Barr, R. B., & Tagg, J. (1995). From teaching to learning—A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, 27, 18-25.
- Brown, A. M. (2017). Emergent strategy: shaping change, changing worlds. Chico, CA: AK
- Gannon, K.M. (2020) Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.