21. time to breathe (2) + ACUE online teaching toolkit
thinking about course rhythms + my neighbor totoro
Hi there! 👋 I’m Ida, and this is tiny driver, a newsletter about research, pedagogy, culture and their intersections. Thank you for being here. Reply anytime, I love hearing from you.
Happy Monday! I hope that folks were able to have a relaxing holiday weekend despite the current constraints around how, where, and with whom we can spend this time. I ended up taking a much-needed 2-day break on Wednesday and Thursday, and spent the holiday by myself doing things that made me happy. I cleared out the "Watch Later" tab on my YouTube account. I was able to finish The Vanishing Half (so, so good) and watch nostalgic things from my youth (read: the Olsen twins and Lizzie McGuire—and yes, I am a child of the late 90s and early 00s).
I hope that you all were also able to find some joy this weekend, even if it came differently this year.
What I teach.
So, I'm still pretty hyped about my Transnational Asian/American Activism course. Northwestern's Searle Center for Advanced Teaching and Learning is currently hosting a 3-week workshop on "Foundations of Online Teaching" for grad students & faculty members. The time I've set aside for the course has given me a chance to think about teaching online and re-structuring my syllabus in a way that is structured and manageable. (Whenever I thought about my classes and looked at my syllabi prior to this workshop, I felt like this: 😰. Now, I think I feel more like this: 😅. The sweat drop has changed sides, so that's progress, I guess?)
Probably one of my favorite resources I've come across in doing this workshop is the Online Teaching Toolkit from ACUE (the Association of College and University Educators). Unlike a lot of online teaching resources that are out there, this is short, straight-forward and actionable. Each topic area has a video introducing the subject, tangible recommendations and content that you can download and adapt to your own course objectives.
One of the most enlightening sections for me was the "Organize Your Course" section, where the idea of a course weekly rhythm was introduced. So much of our lives are currently so uncertain, so I appreciated this tip to bring back some sense of "routine" into the course experience—both for the students and the instructor. I also like that they use the word "rhythm" instead of "routine." To me, the former signifies iteration and foundational comfort, but also flexibility in repetition. Routine, on the other hand, feels boring and rigid. Here's a look at the sample rhythm that they provide:
Funnily enough, one of the contributors Michael Wesch has his own YouTube page (with 26k (!!!!) subs). According to his institution's website, he's a Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. And while I have no idea what kind of a scholar he is, Wesch has really seemed to take the principles of online pedagogy and translate them into something pretty inspiring on his channel. His series "Teaching Without Walls" has given me some best practices in creating my own online pedagogy (like, "build community with video introductions" or "respond freely").
Since the workshop has started, I've been able to re-think my course into "modules" using a course roadmap template. (Of course, I created this with Notion. Notion, if you're listening, would be happy to do spon con 4 u. <33) At the top, I've put my course description & objectives to remind me of the overall goals of the course. And then, I have a table that breaks down the course into modules, which have their own learning objectives, tasks, and "deliverables." I've found that this allows me to take a minimalist approach to my courses, only keeping the readings and activities that I think reflect the course goals the best.
I hope this helps those of you who may be teaching or will be teaching in the online world!
What I consume.
This weekend, I watched the beloved My Neighbor Totoro for the first time. Back in May, Studio Ghibli put 21 of their titles on HBO Max, which is the first time these films have been available for streaming in the U.S. I finally got a chance to watch my first one over the weekend, and of course I picked the one title that's cherished by so many. It tells the story of two girls (Mei and Satsuki) who move to the countryside with their father in order to be closer to their mother who's in the hospital. After moving into their new home, they meet "soot gremlins" and little "forest spirits." At one point, Mei ends up running after the little monsters and finds the home of the biggest one, named Totoro. Whether while sleeping, carrying a little umbrella blowing in his little forest horn, he looks out for them throughout the rest of the film.
One of the loveliest moments, for me, was when Mei tries to show her father and sister the tree that Totoro lives in. Although the hole that she fell through is closed—Totoro & his friends didn't want to be seen at the time—the father uses the moment as an opportunity to bask in the beauty of the forrest with his daughters.
Magnificent tree...it's been around since long ago. Back in the time when trees and humans used to be friends. When I saw this tree, I knew this would be a good place for our family to live...So, let's give this tree a nice greeting and go eat our lunch!
Thank you for watching over Mei and making us feel so welcome. Please continue to look after us.
Their acknowledgement of the tree and land in front of them—its ability to protect and comfort and provide stability—made me think of adrienne maree brown's Emergent Strategy and the way that she writes about trees and nature. She quotes Morgan Mann Willis at length on the power of trees:
I believe in the honesty of trees...I look at the anatomy of trees as one of nature's examples of successful organizing that realizes that our power is in our ability to both be fiercely centered and grounded but also reaching towards our unique sources of energy, light and growth...The have encouraged me to not worry so much about making everyone 'feel important' and to focus on who to create systems and support efforts where everyone is important and clear on how their work is unique, crucial and totally interconnected.
The tree in My Neighbor Totoro seems to also allude to this sense of interconnectedness—among Mei, Satsuki and their parents; between the forest spirits and the people they watch over; among the humans, the spirits and the tree itself.
Item(s) of note.
Elena Gonzales, an amazing independent scholar and curatorial consultant based in Chicago, gave a talk with other museum folks on "Curatorial Collaborations: Exhibitions for Social Justice." Here's the link to the recording if you're interested!
I just found out about this "Tiny Diner" poster, and given that this is "tiny driver," it really resonates. 😂
What I've been cooking on the regular.
Higgins is doing very well basking in the Bay area sun. What a big smile.
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!