Assignments that energize rather than drain
Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Here's an announcement I made to my class reflecting on course assignments
I recently received a response on the anonymous feedback form that is giving me something to think about. The person wrote about their resistance to certain assignments, feeling felt intimidated by certain prompts and drained think about how they'd HAVE to complete it. They reflected on the value of excitement and curiosity when they feel free to have choice in their work.
I strive to not make you feel intimidated, drained, or forced to do anything. Capitalism has built many systems and institutions that function to intimidate people (as opposed to developing care and trust), drain people (as opposed to energizing them), and force people (as opposed to empowering people). As you talk about how excitement and curiosity contribute to your learning, I'm thinking about the Audre Lorde quote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” I think this could be said of caring for one other as well.
I also recognize that caring for ourselves and one another isn't always comfortable or easy. Exercise is a fundamental part of caring for my body, yet at the cellular level it entails stress and fatigue. Forming deep connections with people involves setting boundaries and surfacing healthy conflict. Without moments of confusion, uncertainty, or resistance, we could never come to see the world differently, which is an experience that I hope to facilitate for you as an instructor.
That said, there comes a point where the negatives outweigh the positives, and the work becomes depleting. Maybe you don't have the bandwidth to engage at depth. Maybe you don't consider it relevant and feel indifferent! Whatever the reason, when you feel like your grade will suffer as a consequence of your circumstance... it just sucks.
So, here are my thoughts.
The nature of the issue ought guide the solution. If it's a bandwidth issue (i.e.: this class is demanding too much work to actually learn), I am willing to reduce the number of required discussion posts. I think I could be open to make 7 required and 3 optional (or extra credit maybe?).
That said, from your message, it doesn't sound like it's necessarily a bandwidth issue. It sounds like it's the quality of work that's being asked of you, not necessarily the quantity. I mean, think of a time when you've just fallen in love with an activity or a project. When I can get into a flow state, it's like I've accessed this well of energy in me that's been waiting to be released, and time just flies! Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could live our lives that way?
When I first read your message, I began thinking about how the discussion prompts might intimidate someone. If it's an issue of accessibility, it might mean that it is hard to interpret the assignment into something that is understandable. If it's an issue of relevance, it might mean that the assignment feels like a meaningless waste of your valuable time. I believe that both accessibility and relevance are at least somewhat pliable; they can be developed with appropriate framing (contextualizing work to make it relevant) and scaffolding (supporting work to make it accessible). I wonder if I could frame/scaffold these assignments a bit more beforehand? If that doesn't seem helpful, we could also consider adjusting the assignments to be more tailored to your context. Maybe discussion posts could have a more open-ended option where you discuss your own provocative questions about the subject?
Overall, I am willing to reduce the required workload, though I want to consider ways to adjust work to make it meaningful before discarding it. Please feel free to weigh in if you have strong feelings or thoughts. Mack.