Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Engaging Whiteness in Higher Education

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is about whiteness and how it plays into racism. The chapter says something that interests me:

We are all responsible for racism because it continues to exist.

This really speaks to me, as a white person. Until RAPP, I was pretty much oblivious to the institutionalized nature of racism. I didn't know, I didn't see. And then I heard my RAPP buddies talking about it, and realized it is still there, it's just more subtle than it used to be. When I was on campus the first time, from 1990-1992, I was very aware of racial tensions. It was hard not to be. Insults were exchanged, and sometimes blows, over racial insults and slurs. It was not a riot, but the racism was overt. But now... Now it's much more subtle, and you can ignore it if you choose to. It was a hard thing for me to admit I have privilege, but now, if I can use that privilege to do something good, I'll be happy to have it.

The chapter also talks a little bit about one of my favorite topics: Intersectionality. I love how everyone is different in the way that their identities intersect with each other. There could be two people with the same identities that are totally different because those identities intersect differently. And I think that's an awesome thing. It's an amazing feeling to be able to be yourself. I've learned that over the years, to be myself. Trying to be someone you're not is uncomfortable and difficult. You end up lying to others about what you think and feel, and presenting a false front to people. I tried to fit in for a lot of years, but now I'm out of the closet, so to speak. I say what I think and think what I say. If you don't like me, that's your loss. That's part of the reason I'm so proud to be partnered with Ali. As a trans man, he is being who he is, even when it's so difficult. I find that his courage inspires my own, in many ways. It makes me more willing than ever to be myself, even if I am a bit weird.

The last thing I want to talk about from the chapter is the way whiteness is homogenized. For some reason, many people, both white and of color, dismiss white people as all being the same, not being a diverse group in their own right. This is seen in people talking about a diverse group when it's white people mixed with people of color. It's like white people can't be diverse among themselves. I don't really think this is done consciously, but it can be a problem. We do need to realize that whites can be as diverse as people of color can be. We need to recognize, as facilitators, that all people are diverse. It seems to me (and this is just my opinion) that there are whites and then other. And other is a diverse group, while whites is not. We're all lumped together, despite having different antecedents and characteristics. I hadn't realized it till it was pointed out to me, but diverse can have many meanings.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Building a Framework for SJE

Chapter 2

Okay, chapter 2 was interesting and fun. I liked hearing the participant quotes the author used, as that made me feel like she knew what she was talking about. She has her own framework that she uses to help her facilitate her SJE sessions. She admits she's made mistakes before, and that her framework evolves as she does. It's separated into several portions. The outermost portion (imagine a rectangle) is based on facilitator awareness and growth. This is an area where we need to be constantly concerned. We grow each day with our observations and actions. We learn what works and what doesn't. We also learn from our participants what works and what doesn't. Something I learned from the recent meeting was that I need to be very careful about how I phrase things, and how I speak. So we're learning something every day and adding to our experiences. This is a good thing, as we become better social justice educators when we learn these lessons.

The inner rectangle is about creating an inclusive learning environment. We have to make the space safe enough that participants feel they can take a risk, and we have to make the space feel like a welcoming atmosphere for them to share things about themselves that are... Deeply personal and risky. People need to feel like their statements will be respected and that people who disagree will do so respectfully. Inside this rectangle, there is a three part session plan or semester plan. The three parts are: 1) A model of oppression, 2) Participant Self Reflection, and 3.) A call to ACTION. I'll devote a paragraph to each of these.

The first part is the model of oppression. This is the subject where things can tend to get over intellectualized. People think that this is necessary, almost. It should be an intellectual exercise in part. But there should also be stories to go with it. Stories are the examples you use to show that this model is correct and not just a fanciful construct. If they are participant stories, that's even better, because those can't be scripted ahead of time. They're real and compelling, and are more believable because of it. This is where students take a risk. They tell the story of what they heard or saw or did, or what was done to them. These are the stories that bring the model to life. You can also use stories from the news media, or from the campus grapevine to "Prove" your theory/model is alive and well.

Next is participant self-reflection. As a participant, I had a hard time with this as subtleties are not something I see well. I don't see connections between things that I think I should see. I felt somewhat ashamed of my privilege at different times as well. Self-reflection is HARD WORK. It's something that can be done both publicly and privately, and I did a fair amount for RAPP. I also do a fair amount for my job as a facilitator. About what went right, and what went wrong. So self-reflection never really stops, it just keeps going.

And finally, the call to action. We had this at the end of the RAPP curriculum. That was the point where we had a gallery walk and saw posters up all over the walls where we could join groups on campus to make a difference ourselves. We could actually go out and DO SOMETHING to help. That was my favorite gallery walk. There were so many opportunities to help, and I wanted to do about half of them. (Like I have the time.) It gives me hope to see how so many people are interested in making a difference. We had a large (well, fairly large) group for my RAPP year. At the very end of the year, there were 25 of us that had hung strong through all the meetings and retreats and such. And it was so wonderful to see everyone, it made my day!!! And now I'm even more involved, which makes me happy. I'm helping others learn about social justice, and I'm asking them to go out and educate their family and friends as to what oppression is really about. It's wonderful to do these activities and feel like I'm making a difference in the lives around me. It's wonderful, and emotional and terrifying, lol. (After all, what happens if I do something wrong?)

Speaking of doing things wrong, we didn't really do anything wrong on Monday night. We were hoping for a bigger turnout, but we only got five people. So we pretty much redid our session plan at the last minute, and only did some of our activities. Then we substituted a guided discussion for the two activities we had planned to do that needed a bigger group. Even with the last minute substitution, we did all right. We ended up having it in the RAPP Office, cause that was cozier, we didn't need all the space, and there were students out in the lounge playing around and having music. We could have done it there anyways, but we chose to move it in the office instead. Our participants were wonderful (thanks to all those who came) and really didn't mind sharing very personal things that they thought and felt. So I'm calling it a big success. (And I'm now much less nervous about the whole facilitation thing. I've got a couple under my belt, and they both went okay, so I'm starting to relax and not be so afraid.)

Hopefully, this finds you all hale and hearty and doing well. I'm happy with the way things are going. Have a good weekend everyone!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation

Chapter 1

Okay, here is part 2 of chapter 1. It was interesting, and there's an interesting thing I want to note at the end of this blog about the book in general. But I'm gonna leave that for last. For now, I'm going to take a look at the framework the book writes about. It has three dimensions, or I'd draw it for you! If you look at it at angle so that you can see height, width, and depth, you can see that it's cut into two layers vertically, two layers deep, and three horizontal layers.

I'll talk about the height first. The top layer is broken into six blocks, if you will. All six blocks are the intersection of three sections. The whole top layer is conscious. So, for example the front left block is the intersection of conscious, behaviors, and individual. Each of the six blocks has a different combination of elements in them. The second layer, height-wise, is unconscious. And the bottom left front block is unconscious, behaviors, and individual. Depth wise, we have a front group of six and a back group of six. The front group is behaviors and the back group is attitudes. So for example, the back right bottom block is unconscious, attitudes, and societal. The last group of blocks is the horizontal grouping. There are three blocks across, and they are individual, institutional, and societal. There are a total of twelve possible combinations of these blocks, and each addresses a different type of oppression. We talked about this model in my RAPP group, and I found it fascinating. We even had an activity, led by Brice, where they drew the grid on the floor of conscious and unconscious on one axis, and individual, institutional, and societal. There was also a place to stand if you felt the news article or fact in question was not racist. Then Brice would read the story or fact, and we would all stand in the block or blocks we felt applied to it. (Sometimes, it was very hard to decide.) As we stood there, we listened to a few people give their reasons for where they were standing, and then moved on to the next story or fact. It was a great way for us to use the model, at least partly, and apply it to real life situations.

Of course, this is not the only model. It belongs to R Hardiman and R Griffin. There are many other models, and I'm sure the discussion regarding them is fierce. It has occurred to me that we could do a whole meeting based on the various frameworks out there, with maybe a vote at the end of what the participants think is the most elegant model, the most usable model, and the most applicable model to our situation here at UC. Hmmmm... Now the brain is churning, lol.

The framework that we use to found our social justice education efforts is the Intergoup Dialog Method. (No one told me this, but it seems to fit the best.) It involves content learning, structured interaction, and facilitative guidance. There are four stages: 1) Group Beginnings, 2) Exploring Differences and Commonalities of Experience Across and Within Social Identity Groups, 3) Exploring and Discussing Controversial Issues, and 4) Action Planning and Alliance Building for Creating Change. It seems to me that participants in these groups MUST consider themselves a unit in order to get work done. They must think of what they can achieve together, rather than singly.

The last thing I want to note is that this book often makes me nervous. This is my first position as a facilitator, and while I did well this Monday (it was like pulling teeth at first, but we eventually did all right), I'm still really nervous about the first meeting next week. And while I think some of it is natural nerves (not being all that comfortable speaking in front of people), I think a lot of it is due to trying to keep all the facilitation advice handy in my head. Be impartial, be multipartial, be encouraging, be fair, allow all ideas an equal chance, help participants learn... And then there are the don'ts. Don't agree with any one person or faction. Don't be partial. Don't allow your face to show your emotions. (I have a glass face. Most people can read me as easily as you're reading this.) So I worry about how it's going to go. And the book sometimes makes it worse as there are so many different things they talk about that can go wrong. It is, in a way, like mothers telling the expectant mother horror stories about labor and delivery. I read about how things can go wrong, and I pray I'll remember everything and do a good job. You can all wish me luck!!!

Anyways, that's all from me today, so I hope you all have a good weekend. I'm working tomorrow, and hoping to be very productive as I have a lot to do and a deadline coming up. I'll most likely be working late Tuesday night too, as that is the last day. Mostly, though, I enjoy my work, so it shouldn't be too bad. Y'all have a good one!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: The Evolution of Social Justice Education and Facilitation (Part 1)

Chapter 1

I put a piccy of myself with Ali and Tristen up this week, just so you have something to look at!!! I wanted to have something for you to look at for a change. (I hate having my piccy taken, and Brice loves to take photos. He's always pointing his phone at us. He took one of me and Byron that night too.) Also, this is going to be part 1 of 2. Brice may have sent out an email (I want to say I saw one), but he doesn't remember doing it, and I can't find it. So he chose Chapter 1 today (for the week of October 26 to November first), and I don't think it's fair to ask everyone to read a chapter on Saturday and another chapter for the week of November second. Since there's PLENTY of info in chapter 1, I'm gonna do a part one and a part two for my blog on it.

Anyways, on to Chapter 1. Chapter 1 was actually quite interesting, talking about the roots of the Social Justice Movement and how they intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. I've an interest in History, and have enjoyed several classes in the subject, so this part was enjoyable for me. The book talked about how it came about (even before Brown vs The Board of Education in '54) and how it has changed over the years. The book used a term that I personally am uncomfortable with: assimilation. It talks about how educators wanted to put these new students (new being people of color and women) into the groups that already existed on campuses. It also talks of a homogenous society, where people leave behind the customs and language of where they came from and take up new customs and languages to fit in. And in one sense, I think this is a good thing: In the language arena. I believe that all citizens of the USA should learn to speak English. This is my personal belief, and is in no way indicative of how my RAPP colleagues feel. However, I also think that with friends and relatives, these people should be free to speak whatever language they want, be it English or Spanish or an Indian or African dialect. That's my one nod to fitting in. When it comes to leaving behind the customs that brought you here, I'm adamantly against it. I think that where you came from defines a big part of who you are. So this is something I think we should all keep. Follow the traditions your parents and grandparents started. Do Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Diwali every year. Celebrate your holidays and eat your food and follow those traditions that have been given into your safekeeping. So many educators back in the day strived to assimilate people, and I think that's wrong. Plus, every time I hear the word assimilate it reminds me of Star Trek and the Borg, which is just creepy. So it makes me want to have people in my life that follow different traditions. At my co-op job, they had a big Diwali celebration last week. I went down for some of it, and it was awesome. They read a story, then performed a skit of the story, tuned of course to our business and using our software product. There was music and dancing and food and it was awesome. I thought it was so cool of them to have something like that... Earlier in the year, they had an all American picnic lunch with burgers and hot dogs on the grill and things like potato salad and macaroni salad. It was awesome. (I've been really impressed with my company. It's an awesome place to work.) None of my fellow co-ops went down though, and I thought that was sad.

One thing that life has taught me is to be open minded. You never know who will do what. Life is unpredictable, so live every moment of it. Always do your best, and provide an atmosphere for others where they can do THEIR best. Learn about the cultures of others. This country was built on the premise that whiteness WAS a culture (in one way). I say this because all of the traditions of the white immigrants sort of coalesced into one culture. German and Irish and Scotch and English and French and Spanish all mingled. And Americans created some of their OWN traditions as well. But people of color were not accepted in this culture: they didn't fit in, so they were scorned and worse. In being penalized for the color of their skin, or the accent with which they spoke, they were marginalized, kept away from the "mainstream" culture. So many traditions were lost in this culturalization of America. And slavery put paid to many traditions of African cultures. Tribes sold captured prisoners as slaves, and sometimes whole villages were taken as slaves. Their traditions are now gone, lost forever.

One thing I think we need to encourage immigrants of today to do is to keep the old traditions, as well as forging new traditions here. There is no reason Christmas and Hanukkah should not be able to coexist. Follow your religious traditions, and create new traditions with your families, traditions that they can pass down to their children. Because the little things are often what we're made of. The things our parents did for us, the things our grandparents did for us, those things, little though they may be, make up who we are. And that's my sermon on traditions. (Yes, I got WAY off the path of chapter one, but it was an interesting trip, I hope.)

Another thing Chapter 1 said was that the early movements did not really look at the social structures that perpetrated the inequity of education. Racism at that time was INSTITUTIONALIZED, but the movement did not yet question the structures that higher education was built on. Instead, they focused on adding to the curriculum classes that celebrated the differences of other cultures. In this way, they thought that white students would begin to see the value in marginalized students, and would then accept them into their lives and into their culture. This did not happen, and educators realized there must be something more done to achieve equity.

And I'm going to include a quote this week too, that I really think speaks to what the Social Justice Movement really wants to see happen. The words resonated with me so much, that I wanted to share them. They're from a textbook, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice Sourcebook by Adams, Bell, and Griffin in 1997. Bell said the following :

Social Justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a society in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their full capacities) and interdependent (capable of interacting democratically with others). Social Justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward with others and the society as a whole.

Her words are deeply evocative of a society that I may never see here on earth, but hope my children, or perhaps their children, will see. It will take a lot of hard work, but I believe we can bring this ideal to fruition, one person at a time if necessary.