Teaching with Tension addresses diversity, inclusivity in classroom


CW/ Keely Brewer

Jeffrey Kelly , Contributing Writer

Teaching with Tension will be a one-day symposium where faculty can learn new strategies for handling discussions about tense topics, such as race, in the classroom.

The symposium will have three sessions: Teaching with Tension workshop, faculty and graduate student skillshare and undergraduate student perspectives: an open conversation.

“We call it ‘Teaching with Tension’ because quite often when you bring up racialized topics in the classroom, it creates a lot of anxiety,” said Cassander Smith, associate professor of English at the University. “It makes students, and sometimes faculty, particularly if they aren’t well versed in the subject matter, a little uneasy having those kinds of conversations.”

What: Teaching with Tension, a symposium discussing helpful strategies for addressing tense topics in the classroom.

Who: The Department of English Diversity Committee, UA Faculty and any student interested can attend.

When: Monday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: 301 Morgan Hall


Smith said the first session will be a hands-on workshop that is going to be led by herself and her two co-editors, Pliathia Bolton, assistant professor of English at the University of Akron and Lee Bebout, professor of English at Arizona State University. The session will address different scenarios encountered in the classroom and the strategies to approach them.

She said the second session will be led by UA faculty members and will discuss specific pedagogical exercises and lesson plan strategies that do and do not work in a classroom.

“And then the third one, which is the one that I’m probably most excited about, is going to be a student-led, kind of like rap session, where we’re going to have some undergrads get together with graduate students and faculty,” Smith said. “The undergrads are going to lead us through a conversation about how they have experienced diversity and inclusivity in the classroom or how they’ve not experienced it.”

Smith said she thinks the most important part of Teaching with Tension is generating more conversation. By doing that, she said it is shown to people both in the English department and beyond that they value conversations about diversity and inclusivity.

“So much wrong happens because people don’t talk,” she said. “And so, [Teaching with Tension] is just about fostering dialogue at the end of the day.”