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BLOG: Navigating Challenges and Teaching Through Lived Experiences as Graduate Student Instructors

By Marisa V. Cervantes & Alana R. Inlow

Our work on this paper started with a hallway conversation about the frustrations we were facing as graduate student instructors (GSI) and the lack of support for inclusive, anti-racist teaching practices. We opened the conversation to our fellow grad students through workshops and panels and finally decided to turn our thoughts and conversations into this paper. We wanted to add our perspective to the discourse with other teaching and learning scholars. Overall, we hope our experiences and ideas act as an invitation to others to start the conversation at their own institutions. It’s time to have an open dialogue with grad students about the pressures they face as both students and instructors, and how to incorporate true inclusivity and compassion into our teaching at all levels. Dialogue between instructors about teaching should be more than a hallway conversation; it should be a practice to normalize the challenges, share strategies, and celebrate the joys. 

With inspiration from educators such as bell hooks and Paulo Freire, we seek to not only shed light on the unique pressures faced by GSI, but also to remind the academe that in order to implement inclusive, compassionate, and radical teaching practices, we need to start the conversation early – before graduate students are thrown into their first teaching experience. We argue that trainings and learning communities should be implemented for all instructors, including GSI. These exist at some institutions and in some departments, but are often voluntary, uncompensated, and unrecognized as a true form of professional development. Academia as an institution could deeply benefit from early-career implementation of and continuous dialogue surrounding these issues. Universities should be about the students, about raising marginalized voices, and about creating equality and liberation inside and outside the classroom.

Read the TLI article here.

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