42 Radical Kindness

Kristin Stelmok

Being part of the CPLC is the most meaningful work I’ve done here at PSU (outside of working directly with students). The opportunity to collaborate with faculty and staff from all over campus has helped me to understand the lives and learning of my own students more fully. I’ve appreciated the opportunity to speak directly with the President about goals and visions for the university, and I am grateful that the voices of our students (especially Jess C) have been included (and I hope that we can hear more from them in future CPLC work).

Over the course of the summer, I’ve been deeply moved by the hard work, dedication, and brilliance of my colleagues. Our conversations and reflections have wrestled with tough questions about pedagogy, humanity, and the academy, and they’ve been invaluable in the development of my own thinking. These conversations will change the way I approach teaching this fall in several ways. First, I plan to encourage students to cultivate and explore their own curiosity by creating flexibility and space in assignments wherever I can. I hope this space will also allow students to make their own connections within and between their classes and their lives. Second, I want my students to be excited about knowledge, not fearful of grades, so I will encourage them to demonstrate their learning in ways that make sense to them, by creating artifacts of learning that can live beyond the classroom. I also plan to take responsibility for sharing some of the ideas highlighted in the CPLC with other instructors, especially our many dedicated TLs. I plan to encourage as many TLs as possible to join next year’s CPLC, as they have a great deal of experience and knowledge to share with the rest of us. Finally, from this fall forward I will focus more on making my courses more accessible, as I have now internalized the voice of Hannah Davidson, our own Jiminy Cricket of accessibility (and I mean this in the BEST and most grateful way possible, as Hannah is a TREASURE and we’re so lucky to have her).

Perhaps most importantly, I am deeply appreciative of the way that Robin and Cathie (and Hannah and Matt and so many others in the CPLC) have centered empathy and compassion as foundational to the experience of learning and growing. We have the enormous responsibility of teaching these young (and often not-so-young) humans the skills they’ll need to live and thrive in a swiftly changing and increasingly challenging world, and I believe strongly that radical kindness is a critical part of this work, especially for students who are marginalized (in one way or in many) or who haven’t found this kind of support elsewhere in their lives. It’s incredibly validating to see this philosophy reflected in the work we’re doing in the CPLC.

Finally, I’m filled with gratitude for Robin and Cathie’s leadership. I don’t know if we’re still doing nautical metaphors, but it feels as though, after being a bit adrift, we’ve been given a guiding light, that the CPLC is a safe harbor where we’ve been able to take stock, resupply, and recalibrate our navigational tools so that we can continue on our journey to transform the way students learn at PSU. I feel very hopeful about the direction we’re headed.

 

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