some end of semester thoughts…this isn’t goodbye!

by: d

hello darlings! i am so bummed i was unable to rejoin class last night. the parent meeting i had went longer than i anticipated. i’ll share here briefly that a big chunk of my day was dedicated to independently one of my (10 year old) student’s work for evidence of plagiary. in the age of google classroom and docs, it is all too easy to surveil, and ultimately punish, our students. i’m contending with what it means to exist in a role (for the time being) that requires this kind of work. i’m thinking of two cards from the tea, tech, and tarot deck we were looking at last night: the doula & the scales of justice. as an educator, i like to think of myself as providing my students with the tools they need in order for them to cultivate the learning journeys that most benefit their growth. but in my current role, i often myself tending more to the technology than to my students’ learning.

tarot card: "the doula;" person with pink, cropped hair covered in leaves holds a robot baby. there is a person laying in a hospital bed behind them.
tarot card: "the scales of justice." a cloaked figure stands in the background. only their white eyes are visible. a scale is in front of the figure. on the left side is a human heart covered in leaves and vines, on the right scale is a tablet with green text on it, connected to an unknown power source. the scale is tipped towards the tablet.

in my conversation with the family last night, i shared with the students’ father that our hope was that the student would be able to develop their own original, authentic voice. i discovered during my review of the student’s work that dad had been heavily editing her academic papers. as a dean, i recognize that this level of involvement is considered plagiarism in our academic program, and must uphold those institutional policies. as a person existing within the interlocking systems of neoliberalism, imperialism, colonialism, and patriarchy, i recognize that this was a case of a parent trying to help his child thrive in a world that is hell-bent on witnessing her failure. ultimately, the student was placed on academic probation, with threat of dismissal from our program (does the punishment fit the crime? within the context of predominantly white, white supremacist institutions, yes. our policies are a reflection of the realities our students will face in high school and college. at the same time, i wonder how closely we should expect 10 year olds to adhere to the ever changing guidelines of the American Psychological Association). my institutional responsibilities are in constant conflict with my intuition as an educator.

this semester i have been attempting to embrace decoloniality, epistemic disobedience, and knowledge creation in ways that feel more attuned to my intuitive learning process. as you all know, my goal for the semester was to create an abolitionist praxis repository/site that allowed me (and other social work educators/students) to more intimately explore abolitionist praxis. the site is still under construction, and you have all seen an iteration of it. i decided to take a step back from the site and to create a tangible representation of my own journey to abolition in the form of a zine. the zine format feels appropriate at this time, as this has historically been a format and strategy for making information accessible in grassroots communities. when i started my PhD, i promised myself that my work would be accessible to my parents. to my friends. and to my community members. eventually, i plan on incorporating short-form media like this in my abolitionist praxis repository. this is still a draft of the work that i am unpacking, but i wanted to share this iteration of my final project here: mapping transformation zine

thank you all for contributing to such a caring and engaging ecosystem. wishing you all luck as you wrap up the semester!

Final(ish) thoughts and project iteration

Tuka Al-Sahlani

There is a certain sense of infiniteness when it comes to digital space. We measure data and storage, yet we are offered and sign up for plans that provide unlimited data or unlimited storage. There is power to having something that is infinite, or at least the illusion of power with the ability to claim an expansive unseen vastness. Of course, this vast unseen is precarious. So, in this powerful precarious digital space, how do we care?Practice care? Perform care? As I continued to work on my project the digital space became a second thought. Community of practice became the priority. Communities of practice can help us care for ourselves, our loved ones, our colleagues, our students, our world. In the final iteration of my project I do ask about “where”, but will change the questions to “with whom”. With the infiniteness of space, I believe, community building is the priority. We need care to manage precarity and power. 

Below you will find my project presentation. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions. You all are a community I cherish. Thank you.

DHUM 78000 : PPC in DH: Writing Pedagogy from Compassion

The thought process behind my project — from Sean

One quick note: I could keep tinkering with this project, so I am stopping here. If/when I revisit it, I’m sure I will continue.


Pedagogy courses naturally concentrate on theory, but because of that focus, these courses don’t really provide guidance on how to structure or manage a class. All the theory in the world won’t help an instructor who is struggling to navigate the hazards of teaching. Further, while some colleges and departments have mentorship and sample syllabi, many don’t. Many just push their new hire into the classroom with little to no help. This class should give prospective instructors an idea of what to expect. It won’t prepare novice instructors for everything, but, hopefully. It will give those taking the class some idea of what to expect and how to cope. 


The biggest limitation to this proposal is the lack of practice instruction. When I was in grad school in Illinois, the program had a teaching practicum wherein we taught English to the partners of international graduate students. I don’t think that this would be an option at the Grad Center. A possible solution would be to have the students teach lessons to one another, but I’m not sure of the efficacy of that. Also, this would take a tremendous amount of time, including everything from discussing lesson plans to performance tips. This would have to be its own course. 

Another potential criticism is that, the way I picture it, this course would not have much theory to it. It would be concerned with taking the knowledge the students already have and applying it directly. I think that graduate school frequently focuses so much on theory that it can lead to paralysis by analysis. 

On a more personal level, I do not know how course proposals work at the grad center, but I know how curriculum development works at LaGuardia, and it’s nightmarish. It’s a great deal of work with no guarantee of reward. Further, even if I did propose it, I don’t think my odds of actually teaching it are low. When I finish this program, I will have two Master’s degrees, but no PhD. That matters. 

Still, I think this framework has a great deal of value, in discussing how to maneuver within the power structure, how to set things up to help students, and how to navigate the bureaucracy, which is always a challenge. 

Notes on the project

I want the students to choose an intro level course, because, odds are, as a new hire, that’s what they’ll be teaching. I don’t care which campus they choose, but most CUNY schools should have the forms and policies I ask for on their websites. 

In the general discussion of their courses. I want them to see how many sections their courses run. I want them to think about when and how the course is taught, and how many times per week the class meets. After all, evening classes have a different feel to them than day courses. Even during the day, different time slots have different challenges. Finally, They need to familiarize themselves with CUNYFirst because that program is not user-friendly. 

In terms of organization, they need to know what topics they are required to cover, and which ones are optional. Some courses have more room for freedom than others. Also, there is no one way to organize a class. For instance, when I teach Voice and Diction, I start with a discussion of consonant sounds, then move onto vowels, with the topics gradually getting more and more complicated. However, many people will start with word stress, because English word stress is a complicated mess, but learning the stress patterns really helps pronunciation. Both approaches are valid.  

For assignments, again, they need to check to see what is required. For instance, at LaGuardia, Public Speaking requires three speeches: self introduction, informative, and persuasive. Many instructors add a fourth or fifth. For instance, I add a short speech where my students have to present a chart or graph. I do this to help them deal with visual aids. After finding out what is required, they can add what they want. I would include in this section the fact that the first time instructors run a project, it tends to be a bit of a disaster area. That’s fine. Learn from it and refine. I have been running the states project for over fifteen years, I still have to tweak it. 

Where technology in the class is concerned, I firmly believe that if an instructor doesn’t know how to use an app or a program, that instructor has no business assigning student projects using it. If the students get lost in the app, the instructor can’t help them, and, further, the instructor can’t really assess the process of the project if they don’t know how to actually do it. I have advised instructors to do a test run of new projects before assigning them.

Especially for courses that run many sections, a textbook is assigned by the department and the instructor has to live with it. However, there will sometimes be more freedom in choosing supplemental materials. Instructors can also develop their own OER, but that is time-consuming, and can lead to burnout, especially at the adjunct level

Having all the student services in one place makes sense. They don’t need to include it on the syllabus, but they shou;d put that information SOMEWHERE. I put the student services information both on my syllabus and on Blackboard. 

Some of the college policies need to be on the syllabus. Things like the plagiarism policy (just link to it) and the attendance policy need to be on the syllabus. I also ask about how strict the attendance policy because, at LaGuardia, it used to be that if students miss more than 15% of class (two weeks or so), they would automatically fail. At least half the faculty, myself included, did not enforce this. In my experience, if a student misses that much class, odds are they are failing without invoking the policy. Further, I have had many students who did technically violate the attendance policy, but had extenuating circumstances, so I just ignored it. For what it’s worth, LaGuardia is in the process of reworking this policy, and just sent out a document discussing it, but it is still under discussion so I hesitate to share it. It basically gives the various departments the right to establish their own policies. We’ll see how this is implemented, though it is interesting that one of the reasons the policy is under revision is that it’s too strict, but all the options that were proposed are stricter. So, I am confused. . 

Grading can be surprisingly complicated. For instance, while I understand the idea of the WU grade, there really aren’t hard and fast guidelines on when to use it. Further, at LaGuardia, at least, instructors cannot just give an incomplete. Students need to request one, and that student needs to have a GPA of over 2.0. 

If the class is targeted for assessment, get it done as soon as possible. Sometimes, this isn’t possible until over halfway through the term, That’s fine. Also, sometimes, every section of a particular course has to do the exact same assignment for assessment. 

The observation protocol is actually in the contract, so, while there is some variation, the basics are there. I’m sure the forms differ across campus, the general guidelines remain the same. Remember that the instructor can comment on an evaluation, and, if the instructor thinks the evaluation is extremely unfair, it can be grieved. Also, instructors need to know just how seriously the student surveys are taken and the protocol for administering them. 

I didn’t include this in the project because I don’t think I would have time to really discuss it, but new hires should absolutely read the policy on reappointment. They should also know when reappointment letters are sent out. At LaGuardia, for example, for full-timers, the letters are sent out in mid-November, which means that, if someone is not reappointed, they find out in November, and then have to work the rest of the school year. This is less than ideal. However, it does make some sense. It gives the non-reappointed person time to organize an appeal and find another job in Academia, since full-time job postings in Academia tend to start in November for the following school year.  

Odds are, the instructor will have to use online platforms. Minimize the number used in class. At the graduate level, using five or six different platforms can make sense. This exposes grad students to various tools. At the undergraduate level, so many different platforms can overwhelm students. Also, sometimes, instructors are required to use publisher platforms and the quizzes they provide. If so, figure out how to fit them into the class. 

Finally, the last few weeks of the course pulls all these ideas together, to hopefully produce a draft of a syllabus and, hopefully, provide a better understanding of how to survive and even thrive in the CUNY system. 


I would like to thank Brie Scolaro for help in brainstorming this idea, and my colleague Sebastian Pieciak for his help in refining the project. 

MoMA and Care

Tuka Al-Sahlani

Purple and orange background with yellow letters that read: " You have the permission to be unproductive."

This inscription is above the shelf lined with artist Sosa’s books. It emphasizes the premise for the immersive exhibit–rest is an affordance and/or a luxury (given to you by others)– but so is reading. The official title of the exhibit is Black Power Naps: La Biblioteca is Open .Although it is in the title and Sosa explains why she chose to add her books to the exhibit, the books and reading/literacy are a secondary focus of the exhibit.. My mind is mapping five  words/images here: “permission” , “unproductive”, “biblioteca”, “open”, and the books. Affordances are things given to certain people. The use of the word permission intrigued me because who is giving us permission? The artists? A utopian society that prioritizes care? Ourselves?  Second,how/why is reading/literacy unproductive? Are the artists using this capitalist vernacular ironically? Third, permission and open both suggest there is an owner to the space. Who owns this space (symbolically)? I am asking these questions because although the artists want to create a safe space for Black people and other marginalized peoples, they are not inviting us into this space whether we are their intended users or not. Even “open” is not an invitation, it is a permission to enter a space.  I am surely reading too much into this, but trying to define the terms power, precarity, and care this semester has been an exercise in mindfully thinking about the power of our words, especially abstract and vague terms that have been co-opted to ground and grow the neoliberal agenda. For example, in my project Writing Pedagogy from Compassion: A (Community) Digital Garden, I was advised to define compassion first before inviting instructors. ( But, I have other plans…will share in class).  

Speaking of words: below are musings that were a part of a private conversation that I would like to share here.

My favorite piece from this semester was the Empathy is an Ideology zine. As I think about attunement/connection building and the awareness that spaces will not accommodate all, I become more convinced of the claim in the zine. If I am reading or hearing the word empathy , I am beginning to question is empathy just another word we have co-opted like freedom and diversity in the neoliberal space that will give us the illusion of care while we cause harm? It is difficult to define these abstract concepts, but we need the space to discuss and come to some understanding/grappling of these concepts. 

Also, the idea or the expectation to not feel discomfort and/or to receive accommodation all the time is a form of entitlement that can be harmful to the individual. I wonder how much of this entitlement is embedded in our culture as New Yorkers? as Americans? I am thinking about the way immigrants assimilate and adapt to uncomfortable situations because they see their displacement as present and chosen, so they accept the consequences. This is not to say that immigrants should be harmed or that they should not be protected, but to say many immigrants accept the discomfort of being the Other as a reality. I am going off on a tangent, but the concept of entitlement—who, under what circumstances, and how much does it affect what and of whom we demand change…

In conclusion ( because I have to stop somewhere), I found the experience of going to the MoMA and the exhibit valuable in a few ways. 1) It was memorable to see many of you in person and to experience the exhibition and the AI art piece “Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” with you. 2) It was great to go to the museum after many years. 3) My daughter was able to meet and interact with a few of you, and you made her time worthwhile. Thank you! 4) The exhibit, overall , was enlightening and did its job of opening up and encouraging the conversations necessary to be had about care and rest for ourselves and our communities.  

Thank you Katina for expanding the space of our classroom and inviting us to think of care in more ways and spaces.

[Project Update] From dusty book to digital presence: a visual timeline re: Dr. Virginia R. Brooks.

Brie Scolaro, LMSW

I wanted to take a moment to share a link to my project before tonight’s class / lightning round discussions. Kudos to @awheeler for directing me to Knight Lab TimelineJS. It was incredibly easy to use (as a beginner) and it seems someone who knows code can take it even further. I am continuing to update the timeline with information and media (especially as I continue to gain fluency in it). Technically, this is a project that I started in Fall 2022 when I first discovered the publication Minority Stress in Lesbian Women by Dr. Virginia Brooks. This book has gone unnoticed and unrecognized in the field of stress research, minority stress theory, social work, psychology, and other relevant fields.

This semester, I attempted to explore the question:

How can I get a physical copy of a book that our library has, into an online version – accessible to students, scholars, within and beyond our GC/CUNY system?

I must admit I still do not have *much* to show for my work, but I certainly have learned a lot about the process of copyright and publishing especially in reflection with power, precarity and care.

Attempt 1: Direct Link (Opens in Browser)

Attempt 2: Embed (Not working yet, it seems I may be able to embed it if I use shortcode that is the only line in a post)

Care in Comfort, Care in Discomfort

As I’ve spent the past week reflecting on our class’s experience in the Black Power Naps exhibit by artists Navild Acosta and Sosa, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the differences between care and comfort, and the role of discomfort in care.

The installation was explicitly designed in order to offer care and rest to those who need it and to whom such spaces are typically unavailable, specifically Black people. I think it was also designed in order to make a statement and prompt questions about why such a space might be useful or needed. There is a tricky balance between rest and provocation; the two seem at first glance to be in opposition to each other, though perhaps the tension is more nuanced than that.

As I mentioned to one student in an email exchange about the experience, a space can’t possibly meet everyone’s needs; the specificity of serving one person or community means that it will be less well tailored to others. There seems to be something interesting in that tension between rest and discomfort, that what creates ease for one creates tension for another.

I found myself, in short, thinking once again of attunement. In her 2019 book What’s the Use? On the Uses of Use, Sara Ahmed writes:

If a garment becomes more attuned to a body that uses it, attunement is a consequence of use. We can glimpse in the story of the garment that clings better the more it is worn the beginning of another story: use can mean the lessening of receptivity to others. The garment that clings to the shape of a body wearing it might cling less well to those with a different shape. This is why I call an institution a well-worn garment: it has acquired the shape of those who tend to wear it such that it is easier to wear if you have that shape.

Sara Ahmed, What’s the Use, p. 43

I mentioned after leaving the exhibit that I had felt a little awkward. I knew the space wasn’t specifically for me; I felt acutely aware of the space I was taking up, about how I was reacting to the sensory input around me, about how my daughter felt in the space. Her first comment was one of surprise that there weren’t many Black people in the room. We had talked about the purpose of the installation, about the incident between the Black photographer and the disruptive and aggressive white woman who had security kick her out. I felt awkward seeing you all in person for the first time, too! I loved the attention to the senses—beautiful fabric, calming sound (though not everyone experienced it as calming), soft lighting and soft seating. And yet, the experience was one that created a feeling of productive friction for me, but not necessarily one of ease.

And now I think, maybe that was the point, at least for someone with my positionality. My comfort was actually irrelevant. For someone who typically moves through various spaces of the city with relative ease, that discomfort is a useful reminder. This garment is well worn, but not by me, and not for my body.

All of that is my individual perspective, but there is a group dynamic for me to consider as well. Those who were there know that we were not able to stay long in the space; security started closing it up well before the museum itself closed. One person wasn’t able to sit comfortably in the low, soft seating, and so was physically uncomfortable. Someone else had a negative sensory reaction to the constant sound that was piped in. My kid squirmed at images on the screen as it displayed images that celebrated the body in ways that made her uncomfortable. And one person had a really tough time just finding us.

So I’m also thinking about what I, as the instructor, could have done more carefully (as in, full of care) regarding the visit. It would have been an act of care, I think, for me to have found out more about the space and whether it would be accessible in various ways and appropriate for all ages. It would have been caring for me to have called ahead to learn that they would be closing the space early. I regret not doing these things, and I am also grateful to have had an opportunity to think about this kind of care in a concrete way.

But, returning to my initial question of care in comfort and care in discomfort, the artists who created the space are not responsible for my personal comfort. And in fact, there are ways to read the willingness to create both comfort and discomfort as a profound act of care. My discomfort prompts me to see differently, to ask new questions, to pause and wonder. What a gift.

Found a flower at Black Power Naps


Some thoughts on the MoMA experience:

Going to the museum is always relaxing for me, so I was looking forward to this. However, I found it a bit difficult to relax in the Black Power Naps exhibit. Not sure if it was because it felt crowded or because I felt weird laying down and resting in the middle of MoMA. Also, this week I’ve been wrapping up final projects and had that anxiety (the need for speed that Bailey criticizes) in the back of my head.

Another point I wanted to make is that the exhibit was a space for persons of color, but I didn’t see many there. Also, most of the attendees were glued to their phones instead of resting. This makes me think about past discussions and how we all find rest to be a luxury…Going to MoMA is another luxury. And as Heather Agyepong pointed out, others have gone through similar situations as hers. This leads me to question why would the artists choose this venue for their exhibit? It could be because they wanted to create a welcoming space for persons of color at MoMA but I guess they didn’t consider that most of these people can’t afford to be there(due to no time off and museum entry prices).

Lastly, the highlight of my experience was the Traveling Biblioteca and the dream journal. This space had really good vibes and a soothing energy. Earlier that day, I was updating my summer reading list and looking into Gloria Anzaldúa. I was excited when I saw two books about her in the Traveling Biblioteca. I decided to pick one up and flip through the pages. To my surprise, I found a flower inside (see attached pic.). It made me smile, and I took it as a good omen.

Thanks for organizing this, Katina!

Just in case, the book is the Gloria Anzaldúa Reader

Black Power Naps Reflections

by Jen

I sat down to write out some of the questions I was thinking about while in the exhibition yesterday: questions about exhibition space, about rest, about museums. I am still mulling a lot of these over!

Week 12: Care Work + Emotional Education

The readings we selected for this week are interesting for many reasons, but they all come at a similar topic (care) from quite a few perspectives, which I appreciated. Cong-Huyen and Kush Patel (2021) share their insights on the institutional dynamics and politics of care work, sharing their “radical care” approach to undoing/navigating some of the systemic issues within DH/libraries by promoting solidarity & collective action and prioritizing the well-being of workers. They also offer examples of what this practice might look like, including creating networks of support and mentorship for workers, advocating for fair labor practices and policies, and creating more equitable hiring and promotion practices.

Garcia et al. (2020) then shift us towards the pedagogical integration of care via practices like acknowledging and responding to students’ emotions, creating opportunities for students to share their personal stories and experiences, and cultivating a sense of community and belonging in the classroom.

Finally, Villaronga (2021) breaks down how care is often gendered, racialized, and social class-influenced, and how these power dynamics shape our understandings and practices of care. Villaronga (2021) then talks about how care work involves acknowledging and challenging these power dynamics and actively working to create more equitable and just systems and relationships with students and peers. One common trend I noticed across all three is how they describe care work to be an emotional and political act. I agree, which points us toward something I keep mentioning; the labor-intensiveness of care work. Also, I think the pandemic left many of us who were teaching/working in the early phases realizing that, depending on the context, care can easily fast-track burnout. I think it’s bizarre (but unsurprising) that, as a culture/society, we’ve delegitimized care and emotions in the workplace, resulting in the push to de-politicize caring as a result of things like the pandemic. I don’t know if this is making total sense; mostly still processing. I do have a genuine belief that much of this work will be better enacted/supported as generational shifts occur, but we’ll see.

Care & Feelings

Through these past few weeks of readings and discussions, I keep finding my mind circling around to negative feelings and what to do with them in a context of care—especially when those feelings are experienced by one who is in a position of relative power, like an instructor. What do you (or I) do when we come into the classroom with negative feelings, with frustration, with cynicism, with fatigue and overwhelm? How do we avoid substituting toxic positivity for care? I was thinking about this especially while reading Jen’s post on busted staplers, and Adrianna’s question on how to make time for this slow work when you’re in a precarious position. What do you do when you just don’t feel like showing up?

I’ve got a book on my to-read shelf by Sianne Ngai called Ugly Feelings. It focuses on low-grade negative feelings that are not associated with catharsis or transformation. I’m curious to see how the book engages with these kinds of emotional states, and whether it feels like I can find a meaningful way to incorporate the fact of their existence into a space of care…