Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award & Affect in the Classroom

I was honored this summer to win the Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. It is an award given by the Regents of the University of Texas system to recognize, ” extraordinary classroom performance and innovation in undergraduate instruction.” I appreciated the award and the prize but in so many ways I feel like a toddler in the classroom–like I just got my wobbly legs underneath me.

My next project in the classroom is to try to manage affect better. After seeing some performance art and theater more generally, I really began to think that I am not doing enough emotionally in the classroom. The tendency, at least with me, has been to think of the classroom as a space where the truth must be revealed, regardless of how I or the students feel about it.  The truth is the truth, right? Now I am beginning to see that as insufficient.

My point is not to tiptoe around difficult issues or avoid anything challenging. What I am now thinking is that we are presented everyday with many, many ‘true’ things. Only some of those do we remember and fewer yet impact the way we live. I think philosophy has something to offer in terms creating a wiser and happier way of living and I would like students to take what they read–from Plato to Anzaldùa–and apply it to their lives, live differently. To get there and have that impact on students, there needs to be an emotional and affective content to teaching.

In making syllabi and creating lesson plans, I am now trying to think of not just presenting truth but of making presentations with a particular affective content as well.  In talking about racism, students should be pissed, sad, hopeful, critical, etc. Thinking about affectively involving and making space for students is now something I am trying to do better at.

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