CC.4: Transformative workshop spaces

  • What resonated with you about the teaching styles discussed this week?
  • When have you used these principles in practice?
  • How would you use them in an online environment?
  • How would you use them with library stakeholders like admin, fellow staff, or different patron groups?

What spoke to me the most about this weeks readings (and video!) was the values that were at the heart of all of these teaching styles and principles. Our Critical Theory reading talked a lot about grounding a classroom in “radical love” so that trust and relationships could be built and Mallory Hanora spoke a lot about education as a practice of self-determination and the importance of modeling equity and dignity. I think it is so easy to get caught up in teaching a specific subject and forget the heart of why you’re teaching and who you’re teaching. Centering specific values is a great way to keep your work grounded.

The bulk of my current teaching/educational experience comes from time I spent as a teacher’s aide in Kansas City right before the pandemic. I was working in a high school Algebra I classroom with predominantly freshman, many of whom had experienced trauma in some way or another and many of whom deeply distrusted people who worked for the school system. I was so lucky to be a part of a program that emphasized relationship building first and foremost and luckier still to have the freedom to pull “disruptive” kids out of class and just walk around and talk with them for 10 or 15 minutes. While the pace of our Algebra learning was somewhat slow at first, I believe that the relationships I built helped us succeed in the long run.

Mallory Hanora’s discussion of bringing these practices online at the beginning of the pandemic was very helpful for generating ideas related to how to use these principles in an online environment. Practices like check-ins, establishing the space, and passing the mic are all equally feasible in online environments. I’ve seen a lot of success with virtual white board brainstorming and small groups as well!

This doesn’t directly answer the question, but I am struck by how often library administrations (or admin teams in other large institutions) believe they are entering discussions, seminars, or focus groups with equal footing to their staff. They’re often skipping the step our readings emphasized of building trust and centering an awareness of power or equity in the discussion.

  • What resonated a lot with me from Mallory Hanora’s lecture was the principle of “know more, do differently.” (Rather than “know more, do better.”) Knowing more creates possibilities rather than moral imperatives that shame and disempower people. Her example pertained to the shaming around “Who still uses Facebook?!” and I think about how Facebook marketplace and anti-consumption/free store groups often communicate via Facebook and allow people to access goods they may not be able to otherwise. And beginning a workshop/conversation around personal imperative and shaming rather than a systemic critique and harm reduction model can really shut down conversations before they even start!
  • I feel I use the principle of honoring that people are experts of their own lives in my daily interactions with people. In the library, this includes reference interactions. I will mirror people’s language rather than say, did you mean x? like Google would. I think this affirms people’s expertise in their experience, and I can show them what keywords and search terms I’m trying to ensure I’m on the right track. I let people lead me rather than assert my own authority as a “keeper” of information. I can ask questions to help with the search, but I’m careful to affirm their language and efforts in approaching the reference desk. I think this can also help build trust by collaborating together to find answers, solutions, and new questions - rather than a transactional or one-way encounter.

I appreciate your point here about administrations / admin level personnel in institutions and the vast power differential. Working in a unionized library environment for the first time, I feel I have a bit more footing to stand on, but when it comes to these high stakes and sensitive issues around privacy, surveillance, harm, and creating policy - there needs to be trust before any actual communication can occur. For me, this can look like a supervisor who consistently communicates the what and why, who is receptive to feedback, and who has acted on feedback previously to demonstrate that our communication is worthwhile. I think it’s very hard to earn back trust after it’s been broken by retaliation and/or exploitation.

Feels like such a rarity in most k-12 educational settings!

I think a lot about how much library workplace issues come from exactly this place, admin not being able to acknowledge their power over staff. It reminds me, for example, of early pandemic days when frontline staff had to stay in-person, and admin got to work remotely. And there was no real recognition of that difference.

Especially when we’re talking about an educational environment where technology is a big focus, where people are already bringing various fears and self-limiting beliefs into the space.