Thinking about the emotional safety of our learning spaces
On Thursday June 28, three people were stabbed on the UWaterloo campus. I am comforted to know that all victims are recovering physically and I wish them well on their emotional recovery journey as well.
What is unsettling is this event happened in a lecture hall, while one of my colleagues was teaching a Gender Studies class. I respect our institution's line that motives of the perpetrator are still unclear and I believe in patience for truth. However the connection with the current political climate on Turtle Island is hard to ignore.
I am presenting a talk titled "Expanding Lab Safety: Using visual cues to encourage emotional safety" at ChemEd next month and was working on my slides Wednesday night. The idea behind the talk was that I use signage in my lab and on my person to signal that I am allied to causes that visibly would not be linked to my outward appearance and want to include a space free of discrimination as part of the safety culture of my laboratory space.
In Chemistry, we frequently evaluate students' performance while in the lab and being scrutinized in such a way can be stressful for students, especially those who are part of historically excluded groups. I want to take time to share in advance my draft of slides I was thinking of. The idea of avoiding performative allyship was already front of mind, and I was framing it as ensuring I am providing a space that is safe specifically for 2SLGBTQIA+ students and TAs, but also Black, Indigenous and Racialized persons working in my laboratory.
I am also thinking about how making this emotional safety practice louder can serve as solidarity tool for my colleagues in Gender studies, and how we as a community can make our learning spaces more trauma-aware. I want to extend gratitude to extraordinary young scholars part of my institution who are leading the way.
If you are so inclined, I am linking my current slide deck on google drive. I made commenting possible and would love to hear your thoughts. I have not completed my full talk and hope I can reign in what is currently a complex mix of ramblings about lived experiences, things I am trying to achieve and some screaming into the void about the powerlessness I feel about the structural barriers I face to turn my teaching into the scientifically creative space I wish it could become.