Ashley Franklin

Evaluating My Own Privilege as an Online Educator

As dialogues across college campuses seek to heal the divide that exists as we anticipate what may come as president-elect Trump prepares to take office, I have done nothing additional for my students. I haven’t held any additional office hours. I haven’t altered my lessons plans to include additional talks on diversity. I haven’t engaged with students on a one-on-one basis to help them navigate their emotional responses.
While I applaud my professor friends and college professors across the country who are doing these things, I simply haven’t had to. It’s not that I don’t care. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You see, I’m an online instructor and there is simply no room for me to do these things.
Not all online institutions are the same. I’ve worked for a few. On many occasions, the curriculum is pre-determined. Yes, I can add my two-cents from time to time, but the ability to do so is largely dependent on the course that I am teaching. If I were teaching political science, history, or may even communication, I may be able to speak on the current political climate. However, if I am teaching a course with a stringent curriculum that focuses only on texts and topics that were previously approved, my hands are pretty much tied.
Naturally, I want to let my students know that they are in a safe space. I tell them this every term when I offer my discussion board expectations. In fact, the discussion board may be my only loophole. If a student poses a question in regards to post-election uncertainties, I can respond guilt free. Otherwise, all I can do is hope that my silence does not speak volumes. My only hope is that my students don’t take my silence for indifference.
My students can look at my profile and see that I am an African-American Muslim. Clearly, this election has affected me. It has affected many who are marginalized and underrepresented.  Working in the online environment as afforded me convenience, but I have also sacrificed visibility.  Unless I am feeling extra profound and make a video to expound upon something within the curriculum or schedule a Skype session for a student who is particularly struggling, my students will see my profile picture, and that’s it. That’s the extent of my visibility.
My on-campus colleagues, however, are in the trenches. They are face to face with students who want answers, acceptance, and understanding. Traditional students are typically younger. My students are mostly older adults with work experience. More often than not, they are parents or grandparents. They are accustomed to life bringing the unexpected and sometimes inexplicable. A 17 or 18-year-old does not usually come with the same degree of seasoning.
Simply because of demographics and course structure, I have been issued a platter of privilege. I don’t have to address or heal the hurts of my students. I don’t have to stay at the office longer in order to accommodate their needs. They don’t present these types of needs to me.
Plenty of my colleagues in traditional classroom settings do have to do these things. Otherwise, they’ll be teaching to a disjointed and disheartened bunch.  I envy just how life-changing they can be at a time like this.
And while my voice may not ring across a classroom of hope-thirsty young adults, I have not accepted this as a time to remain silent outside of the classroom. You see, these issues were not born in the classroom, and that’s not the sole place where they will be fixed.
Just because you have a privilege pass doesn’t mean you have to accept. This is the point that I want to stress to my fellow online colleagues. What we can do in the classroom may be limited when compared to what our colleagues working in traditional environments can do, but that does not mean that we can’t do anything. Our lives, just like our students’ lives extend beyond the classroom. We have a voice, and we can find spaces to use it.

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I'm published, but it wasn't for Kidlit

So how does an aspiring Kidlit author end up with an article published in a magazine? It’s simple: I needed something to do while waiting to hear back from my picture book manuscripts. I’ve said before that there is a lot of waiting is involved, and sometimes that waiting can result in a no. Trust me, if I’d received a solid yes by now, you would have already heard about it.
Beyond trying not to dwell on waiting to hear word back from my picture book manuscripts, I wanted to say something. Everyone has a post-election opinion. I had something to say too. I wanted to say it. It honestly helped me to collect my own thoughts.
I feel lucky. That was my first-ever article pitch, and it was accepted. 2016 has been a rough year for me, but it has definitely had its moments of greatness. I’ll be sure to recap as we come closer to the end of the year.
If you haven’t read it and are curious, here’s my article on why I refuse to fearfully remove my hijab.
 

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Don't be the post-election troll

I am an online instructor, so I know a thing or two about online discussions. Job aside, I also have my own Facebook account. Fortunately, students quickly adjust to the different expectations. I have only had one occasion of someone trolling a discussion board in one of my online courses, and I was able to quickly kill that noise.
Social media trolls, on the other hand, are monsters in a caliber all of their own. We’ve all experienced them before. We recognize their extremely disagreeable nature. We roll our eyes at their name calling. We smack our heads at their inflammatory remarks. We walk away from our computers at the sight of their willingness to spread misinformation if it’s in the name of what they believe. More often than not, it’s best not to engage with a troll. Doing so is not for the faint of heart or short on time.
Here is yet another post-election request that I have:

Please don’t become the troll.

Each of us can easily slip into destructive rhetoric when our passions are high, our souls are weary, and our agreeable temperaments are tested. Feed your soul; don’t be the troll. A troll cannot compromise your character and what you put out into the world unless you become the troll. That’s something to consider.

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What now? Promise to keep pushing!

I’ll get right to it. Many of us are upset or downright distraught over the election results. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We have that right. Here is my only plea:

Let’s not become paralyzed in our fears or frustrations.

Continue to do what it is you always do, but be more mindful. If you’re a writer, write the world you want to see. Write the normal that you wish for and make it the new normal. Strive to get marginalized voices out of the margins.
If you’re a parent, help your kids to recognize the beautiful array of people and cultures and lifestyles that call this country home.
Overall, everyone can show compassion. Show love. Let’s keep it real. If you honestly dislike a group of people, find out why. Could it be that you don’t really know any of them as individuals? Could it be that you fear what you don’t know or understand? Could it be that you fear change?
I find it a good practice to check myself. Maybe that’s something each of us can do. Let’s check ourselves. Check our biases and fears. When we learn and accept more about ourselves, it may be easier to love and accept others.
Keep pushing to be great, and as a collective, we might just achieve that greatness in America that we seek. I promise I will do my part. How about you?
 

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I'm not doing NaNoWriMo, and that's okay.

I had been going back and forth about NaNoWriMo. I love the solidarity that it brings. I love the fire it lights under people. I’ve participated twice.
Initially, I was going to participate just because it’s time for it. I realized that’s not a good enough reason. My current writing goals aren’t leading towards a full-length novel right now. What am I currently doing?

  1. Picture book revisions
  2. Early reader revisions
  3. Developing a chapter book
  4. Taking the CBA’s Chapter Book Alchemist course

I think that’s plenty. I love the dependability of NaNoWriMo. Hey, I may even participate next year if the timing aligns with my writing goals. As is the strategy for much of this journey, I’ll just wait and see what happens.
If you are participating, best of luck to you! NaNoWriMo is everything you make it out to be. The more effort you put into it, the more you will get out of it. You can do it!
If you’re not participating, what are your writing goals for November?
 
 

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