Post Written By: Prof. Catherine Heard, Assistant Professor Interdisciplinary Visual Art, (School of Creative Arts), University of Windsor
I’m an #OLDFF fellow from the University of Windsor School of Creative Arts, participating in provincial conversations about Humanizing Learning as part of the eCampus Ontario-funded #ONHumanLearn project.
I feel fortunate to teach visual art, a field where maximum class sizes generally don’t exceed twenty-five and exams are not used for assessment. While small class sizes and assignments where students have significant creative latitude arguably make art studios some of the more positive learning situations in the university system, these fortunate circumstances only go part of the way to creating a space where students can thrive and reach their full potential. I find that I must continually remind myself that a student who appears disinterested or whose work seems rushed may be dealing any number of stressful situations in their personal life that impact what they are able to achieve in the classroom. Without compassion, flexibility, and proactive student support from instructors; even the most ideal classroom situation cannot be characterized as a humane learning environment.
In “My Sad Class” the question, “Will it be on the exam”, stands in for any situation where we might jump to conclusions about why a student is doing the bare minimum needed to pass a course. The student’s inner dialogue is based on discussions with my students, reading about student experiences during the pandemic, and on memories of going through my own undergraduate degree with undiagnosed depression. Next term, I’m planning to use the comic as an icebreaker in a first-year studio class to normalize asking for help from instructors and seeking out university resources, including counselling, financial aid and the student food bank.
Please feel free to share this comic with colleagues and to use it in your own classes.