It is an honor to have been asked to write the first post of the 2020/2021 post for your Community of Practice Blog. Nevertheless, at this particular time, this request has weighed heavily on me as I am not inclined to say something uplifting, motivational and cheery. Coupled with writing for an audience of composition faculty—I must pay attention to clarity, and to carefully consider the all-important modes of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. So, I ask myself—from what perspective do I want to write to you and what message do I most want to convey in these pandemic-enveloped times?
I will begin with two quotes that came immediately to mind as I sat to write this blog post. The first is a statement that the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said to his friend and fellow abolitionist Samuel May: “I have a need to be all on fire for I have mountains of ice about me to melt.” The second quote is a simple statement taken from the speech that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave to a packed church in Memphis on the stormy night before his assassination: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead . . . .” As an historian, I have been consistently asked by students whether or not our democracy could ever fall victim to tyranny and full-blown authoritarianism. As these two quotes attest, there are those in this country who have felt that weight of oppression throughout our history. So, when asked this question by my students, I have always responded unhesitatingly with, “Yes, indeed it can.” In my lived experience and in my understanding of the history, there is still nothing, though, that compares to seeing that democracy being eroded so swiftly, blatantly, capriciously and effectively than what we are witnessing today. But I am not writing to take us down a rabbit hole of despair. I do actually write this post for you today in order to lift you up!
I encourage you to bring every ounce of passion, dedication and commitment to your chosen profession with you each and every day as you engage in the work of liberation and transformation through education in these difficult days. Our students are fire-breathers! Please support them and provide them with all of the valuable tools they need to direct their energy toward melting the ice of tyranny, oppression, violence, racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, classism, misogyny and the soft bigotry of low expectations. I urge you to prepare for classes as if your future is in the hands of the students in your classes—because it is. What will you do to be a partner in their transformation from student to thought leader? I am excited to see the possibilities as we envision ourselves as not only faculty but lighthouses, tunnels, bridges, escape hatches, guides, sages, nurturers and friendly, welcoming accomplices to our students. We need to be who and what they need for us to be as they learn to navigate these difficult times. We have to model effective fire-breathing and ice-melting techniques. We must realize that our students will be the ones envisioning, designing and creating a future for all of us. We have a hand in that. It is an awesome responsibility. Please provide your students with the best possible opportunities to cultivate their own insights; to take the leaps of imagination which will result in their abilities to strengthen their communities. Allow them to revel in their belongingess. Engage their intellects and value them. Most importantly, let them know that we trust them to ultimately lead, by allowing them to see that we are so confident in who they will become that we will be willing to follow.