Back to School.

These are crazy times. Who would have thought that a virus—just the flu, basically—would change the entire world for who knows how long.

Most freelancers in education and research probably struggle with this: less work or, for at least some, no work at all. I lost my main source of income, but luckily not all of them. With this loss comes: time. So I thought: why don’t learn some basics in gender studies and intersectional feminism? I even taught quite a lot of courses on gender and sexuality, but all of them were so specialized and/or focused on my research fields. And although I know most of the basics, I barely read the original texts.

And here I am: discussing Kimberlé Crenshaw, Sojourner Truth, and Audre Lorde with undergraduate students. And it is so much fun! But: I am amazed what kind of questions and troubles undergraduate (and maybe even graduate students?) have. Questions and troubles that my students never discussed with me although they could and should.

And then I had to think of my students in one of my language classes. Just a few weeks ago, right before COVID-19 started to change all of our lives, they were worried about possible future teachers. They wouldn’t be able to learn as much with them as with me; they often don’t understand the new grammar when others explain it. I was a bit surprised: just ask them to explain again, ask for more examples, more exercises.

But: they couldn’t, they said. They didn’t feel they could. One of my students told me that they tried in the past. They were yelled at, they even started crying in class. They wouldn’t ask. Ever again.

I wasn’t surprised anymore. Who would ask in such an environment. But I was shocked, horrified, troubled, and incredibly sad! As teachers, on whatever level in education we are, should not, ever, yell at students for asking a question. Or yell at all.

Dear teachers: it’s our job to teach. It’s our job to explain. It’s our job to answer questions. If that’s too much for you, if that annoys you: get another job. Now.

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