“Academia, Love Me Back” by TM

[445 words]

Here, I am doing something a bit different. I am re-blogging an entry by Tiffany Martínez in her online journal. It is about a learning experience that was impactful in a negative way, but that also offers us, all of us, an opportunity to learn. There are multiple layers of potential learning here, thanks to Tiffany’s blogging about her experience. I encourage you to read “Tiffany Martínez: a journal,” particularly the entry linked below. Here are my own initial thoughts.

As I think about my own education (where I had immense benefit as a valued and supported and loved member of an economically and socially privileged family) and as I think about ways to foster and sustain teaching that encourages learners and helps them uncover and affirm their own cognitive strengths, their passions, their own version of critical engagement with the world at large and with the work of the academic enterprise, teaching that offers learners tools and strategies and resources, that helps them develop character and courage for wrestling with challenging new ideas, for making sense of intimidating quantities and patterns of information, for socializing into new intellectual practices… my hope is that teachers will NEVER proceed as Tiffany Martínez’s professor did with her. Jumping to conclusions and shaming, particularly in ways that further marginalize and undercut folks whose backgrounds and circumstances may not offer them needed support or encouragement, folks who face disproportionate obstacles in the academic world, is abhorrent. It’s just plain wrong. Dispassionately and properly reporting suspicion of plagiarism is one thing. Public shaming is quite another. Especially for “hence.” Hence! Really?

I would like to think that I would never treat a learner in my own class in this manner. However, it would be more honest for me to recognize that, as a teacher, I, too, have jumped to erroneous conclusions. I’ve always tried to discern and address my own misapprehensions and unfair behaviors, but I know that I have also failed on occasion to repair or address some of my hurtful and unjust acts. In spite of my self-professed flaws, there is one truth that and can affirm absolutely:  It is always counterproductive and unjustified to humiliate or ridicule a learner. In. All. Circumstances. Always.

One or two more things. I’m so sorry that this incident happened to you, Tiffany. I hope that you will please take strength in the following. I find your courage in talking about this incident — with equanimity and grace (in spite of your hurt) — an admirable and inspiring act. Thank you for offering us an opportunity to reflect and learn. Thank you for this demonstration of character and courage.

“Academia needs work.” Indeed.

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My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced…

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