Category Archives: Session, Meeting & Conference Notes

Teacher emotions

I have to finally admit to being uncomfortable during David and Andre’s presentations and the discussion of eMotion and other types of software that analyze facial expressions for emotion.  I wasn’t able to put my finger on exactly what made me wary of this type of technology at the time, but after some thought and additional reading, I think I have it.

As a former special educator, I default to the idea that teaching and learning should be an individualized process. As someone who uses Disability Studies as a framework, I am critical of “universals”.  The supposedly objective scientific fields have been and are used to construct what is normal, and therefore what is abnormal.  This type of categorization of people based on arbitrary criteria leads to the oppression of those who fall outside the “normal” box.  I was, therefore, hesitant to believe that there could be such a thing as universal emotions.  Then I read an article in Boston Magazine about psychologist Lisa Barrett ( which said that “her research has led her to conclude that each of us constructs [emotions] in our own individual ways, from a diversity of sources: our internal sensations, our reactions to the environments we live in, our ever-evolving bodies of experience and learning, our cultures”.  This seemed more in line with what I think is true.

I am afraid that eMotion and other similar technologies normalize certain emotions and thus do not allow for individual experience.  I am afraid that in the current climate of teacher bashing and punitive evaluation that such a technology could eventually work against teachers.  Perhaps I do not know enough and I would like to learn more, but I wanted to at least open up a conversation about my concerns with this type of technology.

Adding on an activist identity

Marissa’s two (very interesting) blog posts brought to light many good points and questions about identity and how that is negotiated for people who occupy multiple roles.  Marissa mentioned the types of roles that were discussed at the USER-S meeting last month, namely Teacher, Researcher, and Student.  I did not attend the USER-S meeting and instead spent the day at the annual conference of NYCORE (the New York Collective of Radical Educators) and with that in mind, I would like to complicate the discussion a bit by tacking on yet another possible identity, that of Activist.  While activism may be contained in the roles of Teacher, Researcher, and even Student, I believe it is important to also highlight this aspect of our potential professional selves as separate but integral to the rest.

I believe that many of us would agree that much of our work as doctoral students and teachers is meant not only to create or expose knowledge, but also to eventually change existing social structures in order to trigger the evolution of a more just and equitable world.  In the Santos article that we read, he concludes by saying that “social emancipation is, thus, every action aiming at denaturalizing oppression (showing that, besides being unjust, oppression is neither necessary nor irreversible) and conceiving of it in the proportions it can be fought with the resources at hand”.  Part of this process of emancipation or activism as he describes it is the realization that both knowledge and action are “precarious” and that the worth of a way of knowing or a particular action should not be how famous it is in the larger institution of academia, but rather the practical good that it might accomplish in the world.  As a teacher/research/student/activist who would like her future work to not only add something to the literture of Disability Studies, but also make a difference in the lives of indivual kids with disabilities, this article served as a reminder to maintain that Activist idenity in the forefront of my mind while exercising my Student identity, because it may be that the most useful knowledges for my stakeholders may not necessarily come from the Great Theorists.  What I took away from the NYCORE conference and the readings was that I should not suppress my Activist identity.  On the contrary, it should inform all of my other roles just as my Teacher/Student/Researcher roles inform each other.

Teacher-Researcher-Student: A USER-S Reflection

I know it has been some time since the USER-S meeting and my thoughts are not as clear as they were three weeks ago, but the big take away for me was this idea of Teacher-Researcher-Student identity that I feel I am always moving between. I love the fluidity that these three identities imply, in some cases it is hard to even say when you are one or another or most often, all three at once. And I guess I was thinking about how these three roles/identities that I take on in my professional (and personal in many ways) life seem to me to be identities I would want my students to take on as well. I find that many students only see themselves as students and why wouldn’t they? Schools rarely provide opportunities for students to be teachers and even less researchers. I have had some experiences with my students as both teacher and researcher and these have in some cases been transformative. But while some students embrace these additional identities, others resist. I myself struggle with navigating these three in my own life, so I imagine for a young person, it can be difficult. I guess this would be an interesting study into trying to unravel what kinds of students are more open to these kinds of critical and student directed learning opportunities, and those that are more resistant. In reading The Changing Social Space of Learning article for the class I appreciated the challenges around identity studies and imagine that the “answer” to the above question would involve a very deep investigation into the historical, social, and cultural experiences of students.