One of the biggest concerns right now for academics who are also parents is figuring out how to juggle education for both their students and their children. Many K–12 and higher education institutions have moved to remote instruction for the fall while racialized patriarchy and heteronormativity shape domestic duties in the home space that is now many peoples’ work space as well.
Episode 116 of Imagine Otherwise addresses how academic parents are navigating this terrain and developing a social justice framework for digital learning. In the episode, host Cathy Hannabach interviews digital media professor Kishonna Gray, who uses feminism and racial justice to address what she calls the 3 Ps of online teaching: people, pedagogy, and platforms.
Kishonna and Cathy discuss building learning experiences that privilege experimentation and radical simplicity, how academic parents and non-parents can structure working from home around their unique needs, why meeting students where they are needs to be a core part of our new normal, and why approaching work and life from an ethics of care is how Kishonna imagines otherwise.
Guest: Kishonna Gray
Kishonna Gray is a digital media scholar whose research examines the intersections of race and gender in digital media, with a particular focus on video games and gaming culture.
She is an assistant professor of communication and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago as well as a faculty associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.
Her most recent book, Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (Louisiana State University Press, 2020), explores the intersectional role of blackness in gaming as well as the capacity for gaming culture to foster critical consciousness, aid in participatory democracy, and effect social change. Kishonna is also the author of Race, Gender, and Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014) and coeditor of Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice (University of Washington Press, 2018) and Feminism in Play (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
Kishonna’s research has been widely published in academic journals like Sociology Compass and ADA: A Journal of New Media and Technology, as well as media outlets such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Paste Magazine, BET, and Blavity. She is also a featured blogger and podcaster with Not Your Mama’s Gamer.
We chatted about
► The three Ps of online teaching: people, pedagogy, and platforms (2:49)
► Foregrounding humanity and flexibility in online teaching (8:00)
► Navigating parenting and childcare during the pandemic (11:34)
► Trusting yourself to be an expert in your own life (16:17)
► Putting kids at the center of their learning experiences (20:29)
► Radical simplicity for teaching and learning (25:13)
► Imagining otherwise (27:51)
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Practical online teaching
If technology is daunting for you, just think about and put people first. What is the people’s situation? What’s the people’s condition? What are their experiences like on their end? This was one of the better ways to help faculty in general and women’s studies faculty in particular, because that’s always our focus: the real conditions of people. Do they have access to the internet? Do they have to share it? Are there going to be connectivity issues? Are they caring for family members? Are they working? You have to think about all these things as you’re planning, before you can even think about pedagogy and planning.
The three Ps of online teaching
The first P is people. You have to think about who the folks are that we’re going to be interacting with. That includes the instructors and TAs, if you’ve got TAs for the class. You really have to think about all those people who are going to be part of that class. The next P is pedagogy, and I put pedagogy and planning together. You have conversations with the students, you have the conversations with the TAs, you even also assess your own capacities during that time….The last P is platforms. You have to think about the different platforms that are going to make sense for the class that you have.
Being an expert in your own life
I think people have to resist the urge to just adopt stuff. Every day there are recommendations, things that people say are the best practices. There are hot takes for every situation. I think folks have to resist the urge to think that, “Oh, that worked for them. Let me try to apply to our situation.” These recommendations are not always universal. Folks have to accept that, yes, there are experts who know this information and will give us great advice and great tips. But we are the experts in our own lives. I think that folks need to trust their instincts, trust what they’ve done, trust their own parenting skills, and trust their abilities to do this.
Stop doing “the most” and be okay with “okay”
We’ve become so accustomed to a particular way of doing things and folks really just cannot imagine alternative ways of existing and being. I think that we have to be okay with giving that up. A lot of that is fear of the unknown, especially when things are collapsing around us. I understand the need for a lot of parents to maintain that control, and their kids then become the place where they try to implement and maintain structures of control. But I think those are the areas where we need to let go of “the most” and be okay with “okay.”
All I want is to have an ethics of care around taking care of ourselves and taking care of one another and taking care of the planet. An ethics of care is where we are thinking about lessening harms that are done to people, lessening the challenges and burdens on people, even lessening the challenges on students, simplifying things for students, simplifying things for children, simplifying things for ourselves. It’s not feeling like we have to overproduce and still have to figure out a way to eat, survive, and thrive during this moment.
More from Kishonna Gray
► Kishonna’s first book Race, Gender, and Deviance in Xbox Live
► Kishonna’s new book Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming
People and projects discussed
About Imagine Otherwise
Imagine Otherwise is a podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice, and explore the nitty-gritty work of imagining and creating more just worlds.
Imagine Otherwise is hosted by Cathy Hannabach and produced by Ideas on Fire, an academic editing and consulting agency helping progressive, interdisciplinary scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds.
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Cathy Hannabach [00:03]:
Welcome to Imagine Otherwise, the podcast about the people and projects bridging art, activism, and academia to build better worlds. Episodes offer in-depth interviews with creators who use culture for social justice and explore the nitty gritty work of imagining otherwise. I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach.
Cathy Hannabach [00:23]:
One of the biggest concerns right now for academics who are also parents is figuring out how to juggle education for both their students and their children.
Many K–12 and higher education institutions have moved to remote instruction for the fall while racialized patriarchy and heteronormativity shaped domestic duties in the home space that is now many people’s workspace as well.
Cathy Hannabach [00:45]:
Today’s episode addresses how academic parents are navigating this terrain while also developing a social justice framework for digital learning. My guest is Kishonna Gray, who uses feminism and racial justice to address what she calls the three Ps of online teaching: people, pedagogy, and platforms.
In our conversation, Kishonna and I discussed building learning experiences that privilege experimentation and radical simplicity, how academic parents and nonparents can structure working from home around their unique needs, why meeting students where they are needs to be a core part of our new normal, and why approaching work and life from an ethics of care is how Kishonna imagines otherwise.
[to Kishonna] Thank you so much for being with us, Kishonna.
Kishonna Gray [01:31]:
I’m glad to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
Cathy Hannabach [01:33]:
So the big topic on many faculty members’ minds right now, and why I wanted to have you on the show to discuss it, is the pivot to online teaching amidst COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations. A lot of folks had to do this on the fly in the spring but now have had some time to plan out their fall versions over the summer. So to start off our conversation, can you tell our listeners what is your fall teaching lineup and how are you structuring those classes?
Kishonna Gray [02:03]:
Yeah, absolutely. So fall is a regular schedule for me. I’m teaching two classes. I’ve got very cool classes and a brand new prep.
I’m teaching Digital Feminism but I didn’t go into this thinking that I would have to teach it in a digital format. But it lends itself, so I figure with the things that I research and the things that I do, I need to be able to be flexible enough to use in any format and to adjust to any environment. I think actually it’s going to be cool, but I’m a person who likes physical interaction. I like the engagement, I like the interactivity, especially engaging with students around a lot of the content that I teach.
Kishonna Gray [02:49]:
I think it could be a challenge, but I’m going to look at it as a different opportunity for me to further develop my own online digital pedagogy. I can figure out how I can build and develop a community with students in these online environments where we’re not face-to-face and when I can’t see them. I think it was challenging at first, but then, of course, challenge accepted. I’m like how can we figure this out since this is going to be our new normal.
Kishonna Gray [03:22]:
I also had the privilege of being able to teach online before. Now, a lot of my colleagues—I’m jointly appointed in communication and gender and women’s studies—a lot of my colleagues in gender and women’s studies in particular have not taught online and have not been particularly willing to want to teach online. So this has been a real challenge. I’ve been trying to support them and I even simplified it for the biggest takeaway to think about online teaching.
Kishonna Gray [03:48]:
I even put it in cute little marketing terms so I could split the three Ps of online teaching. First, we’re always thinking about the people. If technology is daunting for you, just always think about and put people first. What is the people’s situation? What’s the people’s condition? What are their experiences like on their end? This was one of the better ways to help faculty in general and women’s studies faculty in particular, because that’s always our focus: the real conditions of people. Do they have access to the internet? Do they have to share it? Are there going to be connectivity issues?
Kishonna Gray [04:29]:
Are they caring for family members? Are they working? You have to think about all these things as you’re planning, before you can even think about pedagogy and planning.
One of the biggest issues that we had was between synchronous and asynchronous teaching. I had made a comment in one of our faculty meetings and I said, “Well, synchronous teaching is the devil.” I was like, “there’s no way,” thinking about the kinds of students that we have here at UIC and thinking about all of the challenges that they are facing in their lives and their real-world selves. There’s no way that you should subject them and make them sit there for an hour-and-a-half and listen to a lecture.
Kishonna Gray [05:14]:
They might lose the internet. So many issues. Now, this sounded real crazy, Cathy. I said something that was really wild and really radical. I said, “What I do when I approach classes, I can’t create a full class without talking to my students first.” If you’re pre-planning all of this stuff, and I know it makes sense. I know that’s the advice and I know that’s what we’re given for our own sanity and for our own well being and we’re applying this universal standard. But I don’t know what kind of students I’m going to have. I don’t know what they’re coming to the class with.
Kishonna Gray [05:54]:
So this is something I’ve always done in all my classes, whether online or in-person. In that first week, I put my feelers out. I’m like, “Okay, you came to this class for a particular reason. So beyond the fact that this might fill your gen ed or an elective, why are you here? What knowledge are you coming into the classroom with? What do you hope to get out of this class?” Those conversations are so generative. I get so much from information from them and that helps me build the class.
It takes me a few weeks then for me to be able to give them a syllabus and I tell them they have to have patience, but they always appreciate that I include them in the course development.
Kishonna Gray [06:40]:
I go in with a general idea of things that I want to accomplish, but I still need to know who the folks are on the other end. I want to make sure that the students are invested in that process, too. I think when students are invested, they’re more likely to build community with one another and to participate. That’s my approach when it comes to online teaching.
I’m going to shut up now. I keep talking. I’m so sorry.
Cathy Hannabach [07:10]:
No, no. I want to go back to this really fascinating concept of the three Ps of online teaching, because I think this is really interesting. You talked about people and foregrounding people both in terms of students but also in terms of faculty, which I want to talk a lot more about in a minute. What are the other two Ps and how are you tackling those for the fall?
Kishonna Gray [07:30]:
Absolutely. So the first P of course is people. You have to think about who are the folks that we’re going to be interacting with. That includes the instructors and TAs, if you’ve got TAs for the class. You really have to think about all those people who are going to be part of that class.
The next P is pedagogy, and I put pedagogy and planning together. You have the conversations with the students, you have the conversations with the TAs, you even also assess your own capacities during that time.
Kishonna Gray [08:00]:
I might have more energy this semester and I might not have the same energy next semester. So I have to be willing to be able to be flexible and make those changes.
Then I think about, okay I know what my teacher philosophy is. I know what my course objectives and my outlook and my goals are for the class and then I can plan. That’s when that planning stage comes in. Will we have discussion boards? No, discussion boards won’t work. Maybe have a Twitter project. I got real savvy with the projects just over the summer because the students indicated that they were so busy they didn’t have time to do a lot, but they had time to tweet.
Kishonna Gray [08:39]:
So I built in Twitter activities and Twitter projects and Twitter engagements. I called them digital field trips where we would engage different kinds of hashtags because they said, “Okay, while I’m working, I can be on the phone looking.” So I built the activity around the things that they were able to do and these projects have been beautiful.
Then the next P, that last P, is platforms. Related to an activity that I said on Twitter, you have to think about the different platforms that are going to make sense for the class that you have.
Kishonna Gray [09:14]:
This is also related to the students’ capacities. Will Zoom or Webex work? There were sometimes I had student meetings where we met on Facebook and there was a Facebook Messenger group that I had with some students, because they said that’s the platform that they had access to and that they could always use. So that’s where we met to have office hours and lecture and discussion.
Those are the Ps that I think about: people, pedagogy and planning, and also platforms. I think that all those are important to being successful in this new environment that we have.
Cathy Hannabach [09:52]:
I love that framework. I think it’s so useful, partly because it recognizes that in many ways this is a new situation. None of us know how to do this very well. We’re all figuring it out. Even people who have decades of online teaching experience are still navigating a very different context than their previous online courses. So in toggling back and forth between the human element, the technology element, and the learning and teaching element, I think this framework helps folks do that really well. So thank you for that.
Kishonna Gray [10:26]:
Absolutely. I should take this on tour. I really had to simplify it, especially for my colleagues who are intimidated by the technology of it all. I wanted them to just think about it. I’m like, “You know what? Let’s just think about what you’ve done well over these past decades where you’ve done this. And then just think about the tools and the technology that’s going to help you continue to do the same thing.” I had one colleague for whom Zoom just wasn’t a thing that she might do. She didn’t want to be on Zoom. I’m like, “You don’t have to use Zoom.”
Kishonna Gray [11:08]:
I think she opted for like Panopto. That the name is awful. The name is so terrible, but that’s the one that Blackboard provides. It’s easy to link to, so she didn’t have to do too many things. I think we also have to be equipped with the know-how, the knowledge of all the different things that we could utilize. I know that can be intimidating. I’m always about just simplify the process.
Cathy Hannabach [11:34]:
I would love to talk about one of the most significant things that’s affecting folks who are trying to figure out how to put together online courses right now, and that’s childcare. This is a very pragmatic, incredibly real issue that often doesn’t get addressed in otherwise well-meaning conversations about online teaching. So how is your family in particular navigating childcare right now? And is that going to change when fall classes start up for you?
Kishonna Gray [12:04]:
Oh my gosh. Fantastic question. We’re in Chicago. My kids are in CPS, Chicago public schools. So Chicago public schools just recently announced—actually I just saw the email today—that they are going to be remote and online for the next school year.
For childcare, it’s me and my partner. We share in the labor. We share the duties. There are camps that are happening but we don’t want to send our kids to camps. There are different kinds of things. We don’t even have a babysitter. I’m not sending them to daycare. We don’t want to do any of that. So we had to think about what was going to be something that would work for us.
Kishonna Gray [12:53]:
My partner is an academic advisor. Right now, he is in meetings talking to students about first-year orientation and all that stuff. So he has a traditional 9 to 5 job. He tries to front load at least all his meetings in the morning so I can do my stuff in the afternoon.
That’s another reason why I had to do asynchronous [teaching]. I can’t be live because of all the things that can happen. I did say synchronous is like the devil, synchronous is like Satan, but also synchronous just doesn’t work for our situation because so many things could arise. I have to care for our children until parental unit number 2 comes in to take over the afternoon shift.
Kishonna Gray [13:39]:
What we also had to do under this model is that we have to do the kids’ learning in the late evening. The kids don’t wake up and do work. The kids, they wake up and they play, keep themselves entertained, or they may go outside and play. We might take them out to the park, but the kids’ learning doesn’t even happen until the evening. That’s the only way that we’ve been able to figure out how to get all of this done. I think it works.
Kishonna Gray [14:15]:
That way the kids wake up and they’re not stressed. I’m just thinking about when we first tried to do this back in the spring. When they woke up, we put them in front of the computer. They were exhausted. They were tired. They just woke up. They still had slobber all over their mouth and that just didn’t work.
So the first thing they do when they wake up, they can play their game, they get all of that out. They can have all their fun and then they are committed to, “Okay, mom, I’m going to play for a few hours. I’m going to watch a couple movies, then we’re going to go outside and play and do our physical activity. And then we’ll come back and do these hours of work. I’ll get to this math.” So that’s been the pattern that actually works.
Kishonna Gray [14:50]:
It’s also worked because both me and my partner are with the kids. We have two kids. So we’re both able to help the kids. It’s not just like one parent trying to do it all.
But we also have a really full, busy day. All day long we’re doing something. I think that’s been the challenge because we haven’t really figured out where is our fun? Where’s our balance? That’s something that we’re going to have to try to figure out because we like to play video games. During the summer, right now a lot of our video game play happens in the evening before we go to bed. But when school starts back, we’re going to be missing out on that, especially if we go back to kids’ instruction in the evenings.
Kishonna Gray [15:34]:
So we’re still figuring it out. We have open enough communication to where we’re like, “Okay honey, this isn’t working. Honey, I’m tired. I can’t do that. I can’t do this.” My heart goes out to the people who are in relationships where the burden falls on one person or one parent. When we decided to have kids, we were committed to both being fully invested in supporting each other’s careers, supporting our family, and supporting each other. Open communication is really the key for what’s working. If something’s not working, you’ve got to say, “Hey, this isn’t working. Let’s figure out some alternatives and figure out something else that we could do.”
Cathy Hannabach [16:17]:
It sounds like you and your partner have done a lot of work to figure out what would work for you and your specific situation in terms of experimenting, trying stuff, throwing out what doesn’t work, changing stuff up, and approaching it as all an experiment. Do you have any advice for other parents—not so much what they should do but how to figure out what they could do to work for them?
Kishonna Gray [16:42]:
Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the things is that people have to resist the urge to just adopt stuff. Every day, just about every day, there are all these recommendations, all of the things that people say are the best practices. There are hot takes for every situation. I think folks have to resist the urge to think that, “Oh, that worked for them. Let me try to apply to our situation.” These recommendations are not always universal. Folks have to accept that, yes, there are experts who know this information and will give us great advice and great tips. But we are the experts in our own lives.
Kishonna Gray [17:29]:
I think that folks need to trust their instincts, trust what they’ve done, trust their own parenting skills, trust their abilities to do this. That’s the thing within the unknown, they’re like, “Okay, well let me just rely on somebody else.” For instance, think about all the great advice that we got from formerly incarcerated people about being isolated. That was fantastic advice. But I also think that you read that information and you think about, “Okay, how do I apply this to my own life? How do I survive isolation? How can I survive quarantine? How can I do that?”
Kishonna Gray [18:03]:
People just really need to think about what their wants and needs are. They still need to think about what their desires are. So for instance, one of my desires—it’s not particularly a need but it’s something that I want to do—I like to go outside. So with my kids, half of our instruction is outside because I spend so much time inside all day long on a computer, to make sure I’ve got the internet.
Kishonna Gray [18:29]:
For instance, we do their science outside. PE is done outside. Math is done inside, but I try to figure out how I can get outdoors and also make sure the kids get outdoors and make sure that we do those kinds of things. So I really just think that people just recognize you are the expert in your own life.
We’ve also got to allow kids to speak and kids to express what their needs, wants, and desires are. There’s this huge imperative, especially for parents who are overly concerned, about kids’ screen time. They’re like, “Instruction is all on screen time. So we’re not going to have screen time during the day.”
Kishonna Gray [19:12]:
Yes you are. Go ahead and let those kids do the things that they want and need because they have to have some self-care as well. They have to make sure that they are taking care of their own mental health and wellbeing. Screen time just went out the window. I’m like, “I don’t care what the recommendations are for screen time.” Kids are going to have instructional screen time. They also want to watch that movie. They want to play some Fortnite. I’m like, yes, if this is going to keep you sane and allow you to make it through the day, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Kishonna Gray [19:46]:
I’ve gotten kicked out and cussed out of some of these parent groups that I’m in because I’m telling some of these parents that they’re just trying to do the damn most. They’re trying to uphold the standard and trying to uphold these particular narratives around what it means to be a great parent. Oh, my kids do this. My kids do that. That’s BS. I’m sorry. I was just about to say a bad word! I think I cursed earlier. I’m so sorry.
Folks need to realize that we’re just trying to survive this. Props and shout outs to Bolivia. Bolivia just said, “No, we shutting all this down. Kids, ain’t nobody going to school.” Just shut it down.
Kishonna Gray [20:29]:
I don’t know why people are so terrified of that. We’ve just become so accustomed to a particular way of doing things. We’re accustomed to certain things. And folks really just cannot reimagine alternative ways of existing and being. I think that we have to be okay with giving that up.
A lot of that is fear of the unknown, especially when things are collapsing around us. I understand the need for a lot of parents to maintain that control and their kids then become the place where they try to implement and maintain structures of control. But I think those are some of the areas where they need to let go of “the most” then be okay with okay.
Kishonna Gray [21:13]:
They might need to repeat a class. They might not get this information right now. It’s okay that they don’t understand fractions. It’s okay if they can tell time. We’ve got time to do that. I think we have to be okay with it. And some people just aren’t okay with these alternative ways of existing in the world.
I think we have to look at people as people, going back to putting people first. I put my kids and their needs first. I’m like, “Okay, these things will make you happy.” There are some days where we don’t do instruction. There are some days where their anxieties are just so high, they are so stressed out, they are frustrated because they don’t get that particular thing or didn’t really understand the lesson from yesterday.
Kishonna Gray [21:58]:
I’m like, “Okay, well let’s just take a little break and we’ll just come back to it tomorrow.” That’s not the end of the world. I don’t know what folks are thinking, but we take breaks in our own lives all the time. Why don’t we extend that to children as well? Maybe I’m a radical in this. Those groups, they called me that. They really thought I was a radical for that, that my kids would be behind.
Kishonna Gray [22:31]:
“What about test scores?” By the time they come along, they probably won’t have standardized tests. I’m thinking about how a lot of the colleges are doing away with the SAT and ACT and doing away with the GRE.
There are different ways that we can learn in the world. One example that I have is that my kids, they had a lesson. It was a science lesson. They were learning about the water cycle and it was YouTube videos. I’m like, “We’re not learning about water on YouTube. We’re going to take our asses outside with some water and see what it does. We’ll talk about evaporation.” How long would it take it to evaporate on a hot day, on a sunny day? How long might it take it to evaporate if it’s flat or how long does it take it to evaporate if it’s in a cup?
Kishonna Gray [23:11]:
So we just did all of these real-life experiences. They learned about the water cycle. They learned about gas and liquid and solid states. We did all that just by doing just the physical thing. It was fun. It was quick and easy. It was something that we were able to do so they just wouldn’t have to be sitting in front of that computer, because they get stressed out. I think that parents have to also come up with those different kinds of alternative ways, even if the teacher recommends something.
Kishonna Gray [23:46]:
I communicate with the teachers and we always try to support the teachers. I promise I’m not that parent that’s like, “No, this isn’t good.” I don’t do that. I communicate with our teachers. The teachers have been fantastic. I’m like, “Listen, my kid’s anxieties are higher around this right now. This is what we’re going to do. We’re just going to do this alternative thing. Is that okay with you?” And the teachers are like, “Yes, Kishonna, whatever works for you and works for the kids. We just want to make sure that they get the lesson and get the objective.” They don’t care how they get it. They just want to make sure that the kids are keeping up with the lesson in some way. That has really worked out and benefited us than anything else has. So I think trust your kids, listen to your kids, ask your kids.
Kishonna Gray [24:22]:
One other thing is that we aren’t putting kids in this narrative. We’re making decisions for them and on behalf of them and nobody has ever stopped to ask, “Hey kids, what is it that you need? What is it that you want? Provide us with some options too so we can all come up with a decision together as a family unit that works for everybody.”
Cathy Hannabach [24:45]:
It sounds like many of the examples that you were just talking about, about figuring out what works for your individual situation, what works that might need to change day to day, week to week, depending on how people are feeling, reflects deep thought and critical analysis of what makes things work for you and what makes things work for your family, for your partner, for everyone, for your students, for everyone you’re involved with.
Cathy Hannabach [25:13]:
Obviously there are huge challenges to shifting everything online and shutting down K–12 schools and all the changes that we’re all living with right now. But what are some of the things that have made things easier for you? And are you going to keep some of those when we come back to whatever the new normal is going to be? So whether that’s online teaching, things that you’ve noticed or ways that you’re approaching your kids’ education, what are some of those things that you want to keep around?
Kishonna Gray [25:43]:
Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate that question. In this moment that we’re in, there is an overreliance on technology and an overreliance on the different, innovative ways that are afforded to us by different technologies. What I have actually found is that a scaling back of the technology has been the most beneficial, helpful, and useful. I’m thinking about the example with the kids about the learning and going back to everyday, physical hands-on learning, the kind of learning that we had growing up.
Kishonna Gray [26:26]:
I grew up in Kentucky, so the outdoor space was pretty important for us and our learning in school. It was a return to that. That’s one of the things that I didn’t anticipate, even in my own classes. I’ve got all this amazing digital pedagogy and these online activities but what we’ve done is just have regular, traditional conversations. It’s been so simplified. I really thought there was going to be this overreliance on the technology but what I found is that students still want that regular connectivity of just sitting and looking at one another. That has been, I think, the most comforting thing for so many people, especially in a world where we’re so inundated with all these different and new things, especially around technology.
Kishonna Gray [27:14]:
It was just too much. It’s just been too much. It really helped me really simplify my syllabi. I realized I was probably doing the most—multiple modalities and multiple mediums. I was doing the most and then I simplified and streamlined it. This has been the most helpful for students and also my own children to be able to get on board with and to engage with. Simplification has been our go-to and been key to surviving and thriving in this moment.
Cathy Hannabach [27:51]:
This brings me to my absolute favorite question that I get to talk with folks about that really gets at the heart of why you do the work that you do in the world. I’ve found that this question, which I ask at the end of every single episode on this show, has taken some really new directions given the last couple of months and COVID-19 as well as the mass uprising against police violence and broader social and political movements. We’re working in a very specific kind of context right now.
Cathy Hannabach [28:21]:
So normally the question is what kind of world are you working towards when you create whatever it is you create in the world? I would love to hear your answer to that in general, but also what kind of world do you want in this particular context?
Kishonna Gray [28:38]:
Oh, goodness. I love this question, but it’s such a hard question to answer!
Cathy Hannabach [28:45]:
It is. It’s giant, I know.
Kishonna Gray [28:47]:
Going back to the notion of simplicity, I want a simple world where we have simple expectations and simple challenges. I think that we’ve just made some of our problems so big that we forget. I want an ethics of care around taking care of ourselves, taking care of one another, and taking care of the planet. An ethics of care is where we are thinking about lessening harms that are done to people, lessening the challenges and burdens on people, even lessening the challenges on students, simplifying things for students, simplifying things for children, simplifying things for ourselves. It’s not feeling like we have to overproduce and still have to figure out a way to eat, survive, and thrive during this moment.
Kishonna Gray [29:48]:
I really wish we could get back to the basics of what we need, the basics of kindness and care within our interactions with one another. I know that sounds cheesy and corny, but that’s really what I want.
I feel like a lot of people are looking at the problems and are overwhelmed and look at those problems as more daunting than they really are. Whenever I talk to people about abolishing the police, for instance, people think that that’s such an overwhelming task. And in my mind, I’m like, “Well, actually, if we have an ethics of care about all people, then we wouldn’t subject them to the harms of the justice system.”
Kishonna Gray [30:33]:
I always like to simplify those kinds of things and put them in the simplest terms possible. We want to care for other people and think about what the human condition is like on the other side. I think this is one of the ways that people, especially people who are joining movements and people who want to join…So sorry, you might hear a child in the background. Jay, honey, I’m on a call right here. I’m so sorry that I disrupted that right there.
Cathy Hannabach [31:03]:
No, I mean, this is the point, right? This is our world. That’s fine. Pretending like kids don’t exist or dogs don’t bark or construction next door doesn’t exist is part of what complicates that.
Kishonna Gray [31:17]:
Or basements don’t flood.
Cathy Hannabach [31:19]:
Or basements don’t flood. Our basement flooded last night. It’s awful.
Kishonna Gray [31:23]:
I know. I know. So sorry. I know. Absolutely. You’re absolutely right. I think we constructed a certain image of ourselves and COVID and quarantine and everything that’s happening is just putting it front and center. We don’t have these neatly crafted and constructed lives actually. We’re actually more complex than that.
I think we can do approachable simplicity. Like if the person who stole your fig tree was thinking about the person on the other end, the owner on the other end of this, they wouldn’t have taken your fig tree. You know what I’m saying? Just basic stuff like that.
Cathy Hannabach [32:05]:
Oh, poor fig tree.
Kishonna Gray [32:06]:
Cathy Hannabach [32:07]:
I miss that fig tree.
Kishonna Gray [32:08]:
I know you do. I’m so sorry. I really just wish we just had an ethics of care, as opposed to just thinking about, “Okay, this needs to be done. A, B, C, and D needs to be done.” That’s how people start doing the most in their classrooms and people start doing the most with their children. A, B, C, and D needs to be done. You got to do this, you got to clean, you got to do this. Do they really? Do the kids really have to make their bed every day? No, they really don’t. Why are you doing this extra stuff for? Even though we are very complex, we can approach each other in the simplest of terms where we’re just thinking about, okay, let’s just care for one another and just spread some joy, spread some love. I’m corny like that, but that’s really just what I want.
Cathy Hannabach [32:51]:
Well, thank you so much for being with us today and for all of these really amazing suggestions and approaches to figuring out what works for individual people by approaching all of this from a frame of experimentation: figuring out what works, trying stuff out, throwing out what doesn’t seem to stick, and continually approaching it as something that will inevitably change. Thank you so much for being here and sharing all the ways you imagine otherwise.
Kishonna Gray [33:20]:
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you so much. Thank you.
Cathy Hannabach [33:29]:
Thanks for listening to another episode of Imagine Otherwise. Imagine Otherwise is produced by Ideas on Fire. This episode was created by Christopher Persaud and myself, Cathy Hannabach. Audio editing was provided by the awesome folks at Pro Podcast Solutions. You can check out the show notes and transcript for this episode on our website at ideasonfire.net, where you can also read about our fabulous guest and find links to the people and projects we discussed on the show.