CHICANO/A 495 Week 10: When they go low, we go high

Debrief

This week, we had our second to last round of microteaching (almost there, y’all!)

One lesson that stood out the most was Tabitha’s presentation on “Diversity Matters in the Stem Classroom.” I thought it was great that she engaged students by having us fill out a worksheet (on Google Docs) with 5 questions in small groups. This exercise allowed to students to share their expertise and helpfully re-capped the chapter highlighting key terms and takeaways.

This document could also function as a chapter review/study guide that students can use before upcoming exams!

Teaching Moment

I had a conversation with a neutral institutional source (OMBUDS) at UCLA about what to do when in a toxic classroom environment. Based on my own experience…

Toxic Environments

  • Encourage public shaming and critiques that are more hurtful than helpful (e.g. critiquing a person in a rude manner rather than effectively critiquing a question or concept)
  • Feel “cliquey” to the point where intentional exclusion and mobbing (where a group creates a negative ‘mob-mentality’ to attack individuals)
  • Do not encourage growth, especially in settings where asking questions is discouraged
  • There is no trust or sense of mutual understanding/respect between individuals
  • Boundaries are not acknowledged or respected
  • Shit-talking and bullying is normalized, and no one is held accountable — and no one speaks out because no one wants to be the next “target” of rumors and drama

WTF do you do?

  • Stay strong, but also know your own mental and physical boundaries. It is always okay to leave a toxic space. It is also okay to leave a space with a friend or to follow a friend who appears distressed.
  • Address the issue. If you do not feel comfortable talking to the perpetrators of a toxic environment, bring your concerns to the Department, OMBUDS, or Student Affairs — it is helpful to have MEDIATED conversations with a neutral party that can facilitate an actual dialogue. (Unfortunately, peers took it upon themselves to publicly yell grievances and misperceptions at me — stop drawing (my way of learning), stop talking about identity politics (my research), etc. — and leave without engaging in a mutual dialogue, hence why a mediated conversation would be more productive).
  • Do not swallow your voice. At one point, I was receiving strange and unnecessary feedback truly putting me on the constant defensive. I literally received questions such as “Why boba? Boba isn’t important in MY life. How can it be a part of Asian American culture?” (The tone of this question felt a bit off, but I justified my project and things were fine.) But then, someone would say, “You can’t conduct an ethnography. It takes 10 years to conduct a good study, so anything you do would be useless. Also, you could sit in a boba shop for hours and no one would talk to you.” (This comment was coming from a really bad place… and that’s when I started to get quiet.) But then, I realized that silent or vocal, nothing I did would stop certain individuals from disliking me. I was the “target.” To maintain decorum in a classroom, here are some phrases you can use when folks are talking smack about your research.
  • “It seems that you are worried about my ability to conduct research – could you help me understand where this concern comes from?”
  • “I feel that you have concerns about my project…”
  • “That’s a curious thing to say. Would you like to elaborate on your comment?”

At the end of the day, when they go low, we go high.

For an uplifting podcast, listen to Conan Needs a Friend #18 with Michelle Obama. This definitely picked me up after a rough week. Thanks to Lauren for recommending it.

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